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Opinion 148

A judge has asked the Judicial Qualifications Commission for an Advisory Opinion as to whether it is inappropriate for court funds, which include monies derived from fines and for forfeitures imposed by the judge and other judges of the court, to be deposited by the clerk of the court in a bank of which the judge was an organizer and in which he is both a director and stockholder.

The Canons do not appear to have directly addressed this question, but Rule 2.11(B) provides that, in litigation matters, judges should disqualify themselves in any proceeding where they have an economic interest “because such interests may bear on the need for judicial disqualification.”  The Terminology section defines the term “economic interest” as follows:

“’Economic interest’ denotes ownership of a more than de minimis legal or equitable interest, or a relationship as officer, director, advisor, or other active participant in the affairs of a party, except that:” . . . with such exceptions not here pertinent.

It follows that, if the judge controlled or influenced, either directly or indirectly, the selection of the bank in which such court funds were to be deposited, then the deposit of such court funds in a bank of which the judge was a stockholder and director and of which he was an organizer would, in the opinion of the Commission, be inappropriate. On the other hand, if the judge had no such control or influence, either direct or indirect, on the selection of the bank in which said funds were deposited, then the fact that they were deposited in such a bank would not be inappropriate.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 1.2(B), 2.2, 2.4(B), 2.10(A), 2.10(D), 2.11(A), 3.1(A), 3.7(A)(1), 3.11(B), 3.11(C), 3.11(D), 3.12. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #11, #32, #40, #42, #46, #47, #53, #61, #76, #148, #160.]

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