State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 98-08
May a judicial officer hear cases involving an attorney who is purchasing a house from the judicial officer on a real estate contract?
A civil attorney is proposing to buy rental property from a judicial officer.
CJC Canon 2(A) provides in part that judges should conduct themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Canon 2(B) provides in part that judges should not convey or permit others to convey the impression they are in a special position to influence them. Canon 5(C)(1) provides that judges should refrain from business and financial dealings that tend to reflect adversely on their impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of their judicial duties, or involve them with lawyers likely to come before the court on which they serve. Finally, Canon 5(C)(3) provides that judges should manage their investments and other financial interests to minimize the number of cases in which they are disqualified.
Based on the foregoing provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct, a judicial officer may not hear cases involving an attorney who is purchasing a house from the judicial officer on a real estate contract if the attorney appears before the judicial officer on a regular basis. If however, the attorney appears before the judicial officer infrequently, the judicial officer may disclose the contractual relationship to the parties and their attorneys on the record and offer to withdraw. If all parties agree on the record that the judicial officer may hear the matter, the judicial officer may preside.
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