Opinion 140

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has been asked for an Advisory Opinion as to whether a judge is required under Rule 2.11(A)(2)(b) to disqualify in a proceeding in which his stepson, or a member of his stepson’s firm, is representing one of the parties.

Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides in part:

Rule 2.11 Disqualification and Recusal

(A) Judges shall disqualify themselves in any proceeding in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned, or in which…

(2) The judge is within the third degree of relationship to any of the following listed persons, or the judge’s spouse, domestic partner, intimate partner, or any other member of a judge’s family residing in the judge’s household is within the third degree of relationship to any of the following persons…

(b) a lawyer in the proceeding; 

In Opinion No. 20, this Commission has addressed this exact question as applied to partners in a firm which included the judge’s son, and the Commission stated its conclusion as follows:

There is no automatic disqualification under this Canon in the situation covered by the inquiry. However, the Commission believes that under the particular circumstances outlined in the judge’s request, his ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned within the meaning of subsection (A)(2).’ Accordingly, it is the Commission’s opinion that the judge should not preside in any case in which any partner or associate of the law firm that includes his son actively participates.

The distinction between son and stepson makes no difference. The Canon expressly requires disqualification in the event of relationship to either judge or spouse within the third degree.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 1.2(B), 2.11(A). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #20, #33, #71, #72, #84, #93, #128, #168.]

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