Opinion 232

An Administrative Law Judge for the State Board of Workers Compensation seeks an opinion on the following issue:

Under the limiting circumstance described herein, is the judge required to disqualify in cases wherein a law firm which employs the judge’s college age daughter as a summer clerk appears as counsel of record for one of the parties?

Rule 2.11(A) generally requires disqualification in proceedings in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned including certain enumerated instances, none of which are specifically applicable in the instant case. In addition, Commentary [5] to Rule 2.11 specifically provides:

The fact that a lawyer in a proceeding is affiliated with a law firm with which a relative of the judge is affiliated does not itself disqualify the judge. Under appropriate circumstances, the fact . . . that the relative is known by the judge to have an interest in the law firm that could be “substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding” under Rule 2.11(A)(2)(c) requires the judge’s disqualification.

No such circumstances are present here. In fact, the requesting judge represents that his daughter and her prospective employer have agreed to the following limiting terms and conditions of her employment:

a. she will work only during her summer vacation from college;

b. she will neither work on nor participate in any way in any case which is either pending or likely to come before the requesting judge;

c. she will have absolutely no contact with the Court over which the requesting judge presides; and

d. she will be paid a straight hourly wage and have no interest, financial or otherwise, in the firm which could be substantially affected by the outcome of any proceeding before the requesting judge.

In sum, the judge’s daughter will be completely isolated from any and all matters over which her father may preside and in which her employer firm might appear as counsel of record.

Under these limiting circumstances, it appears unlikely that any reasonable person would believe that the judge’s ability to impartially perform the duties of office is in any way impaired and consequently neither Rule 2.11(A) nor Rule 1.2 requires disqualification.

Accordingly, the issue posed is answered in the negative.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rule 1.2, Rule 2.11.]

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