State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 95-23
Except for the judge against whom allegations are made, can other judges on the same bench hear matters brought by the court employee’s attorney spouse, including contested matters or noncontested nondiscretionary matters such as default orders?
A court employee is the spouse of an attorney who practices in the court in which the spouse is employed. The court employee has alleged mistreatment by the court administrator and a judicial officer. The court employee has retained an attorney who has advised that his clients in this matter are both the court employee and her attorney/husband as her spouse.
CJC Canon 3(D) provides that judges should disqualify themselves in a proceeding in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned. The fact that an attorney may have a claim against a fellow judicial officer or a member of the court’s staff does not require that judicial officers who are not the subject of the complaint be disqualified from hearing matters, contested or noncontested, argued by the court employee’s attorney spouse.
The judicial officer should however be cognizant of facts which are independent of this situation which may require disclosure or recusal such as if the judicial officer has a close relationship with another judicial officer.
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