State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 99-06
May a part-time municipal court judge also be employed as a part-time deputy prosecuting attorney in the county prosecutor’s office prosecuting criminal cases in the superior court of the county in which the municipality is located?
The judicial officer was recently appointed to be municipal court judge, which is a part-time position. The judicial officer is currently employed as a deputy prosecuting attorney and practices in the superior court for the county. When the judicial officer begins serving as the municipal court judge, he or she would like to continue to work part-time as a deputy prosecuting attorney.
Decisions heard in the municipal court are heard in the county superior court. On occasion, a defendant that the judicial officer has prosecuted in superior court will also have a pending matter in the municipal court. No one in the county prosecutor’s office practices in the municipal court. Cases in the municipal court are prosecuted by city attorney’s office.
Any defendant in the municipal court who the judicial officer is currently prosecuting in superior court would be given the opportunity to have a different (pro tem) judge decide his or her case in the municipal court.
A part-time judge is defined in the Terminology section of the Code of Judicial Conduct as one who serves on a continuing or periodic basis, but who is permitted by law to devote time to some other profession or occupation and whose compensation for that reason is less than a full-time judge. The Application of the Code (A)(1) provides in part that a part-time judge may practice law. CJC Canon 2(A) provides in part that a judge should act in a manner that promotes the public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. A part-time municipal court judge may therefore, continue to act as a part-time deputy prosecuting attorney for the county in the fact situation outlined above.
Even though the judicial officer may serve in both of these capacities, it is the responsibility of the judicial officer to evaluate each case to determine if there may be a conflict of interest or the appearance thereof, and if one does exist to either disclose the conflict or the appearance thereof and/or offer to withdraw from the case.
See Opinions 90-3, 91-13, 96-7 and 96-8.
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