Opinion 153

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has been asked for an Advisory Opinion as to whether a judge should disqualify herself when attorneys who share office space with her husband have cases in her court.

She says that her husband and the two attorneys built and own the office building together and share the expenses of operation. If, in the future, they rent space to other attorneys, these rents will be evenly distributed. Her husband and one of the attorneys share secretarial support, but this is subject to change in the future. All three of these attorneys are sole practitioners. They have no formal or informal partnership agreement. The judge has no monetary interest in the building.

Rule 2.11(A)(2) provides that judges should disqualify themselves in proceedings in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned, but in the opinion of the Commission, the mere fact that the judge’s husband shares office space and expense with another lawyer does not, in and of itself alone, require her to disqualify in cases where he participates. On the other hand, if she is, in fact, not impartial, or if under all the circumstances a reasonable person could so conclude, then the judge 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: #54, #71, #119, #128, #135, #136, #142, #182.]

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