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Opinion 35

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has been asked to render an advisory opinion as to whether the arrangement described below is in compliance with the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct:

A practicing lawyer, upon requesting consideration for appointment as a Superior Court Judge, made an arrangement whereby another practicing lawyer, B, would make himself available to furnish legal services to A’s clients in pending matters in the event of A’s appointment to the Superior Court, if such clients desired B, to render such services.

The arrangement included an agreement as to the division of fees. In matters being handled by a on an hourly fee basis, he would receive no additional fees. With regard to matters being handled by A on a contingent fee basis, A and B, would divide any fees ultimately received in accordance with an agreed-on schedule, worked out following a review of the pertinent files, providing for a division in proportion to an estimate made as to the relative value and extent of services already performed and anticipated future services to be performed in each matter.

Upon A’s appointment as a Judge, he wrote to his clients, advising them of his inability to continue to represent them, and of the fact that B, would be prepared to assist them, if they wanted him to do so. A number of such clients have asked B, to represent them, and it is anticipated that others will do so.

A will disqualify himself from sitting as judge in any case in which he was previously involved as a lawyer. He will disclose in timely fashion any monies received by him as a division of fees on contingent fee cases which he previously handled.

Subject to what is stated above, it is the opinion of the Commission that the described arrangement conforms to the requirements of the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 1.2(B), 2.4(C), 3.11(B), 3.11(D). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #12, #16, #49, #130, #221.]

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