The Commission has been asked for an opinion as to whether a judge is required to disqualify to handle a case because the spouse of the judge is employed as a secretary with a firm which is of counsel to one of the parties in the case. Rule 2.11(A) provides that “Judges should disqualify themselves in proceedings in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including, but not limited to” certain enumerated instances, none of which are specifically here applicable.
However, in Opinion No. 20, this Commission has held that, while the fact that the lawyer for party was affiliated with the same firm as the Judge’s son did not automatically disqualify the judge, under the circumstances, his “impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” within the meaning of Rule 2.11(A), and the Commission therefore concluded that the judge should disqualify.
So here, while the employment is not per se grounds for disqualification, the circumstances may be such that the impartiality of the judge “might reasonably be questioned” in which event he should disqualify.
[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 1.2(B), 2.4(B), 2.11(A). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #20, #33, #54, #71, #72, #84, #93, #140, #168.]