Opinion 71

An advisory Opinion has been requested as to whether an Administrative Law Judge of the Workers’ Compensation Board, whose husband is employed by a hospital supply subsidiary of Hospital Corporation of America which owns and operates a number of hospitals, would be disqualified from considering cases:

1. where medical bills from hospitals owned by her husband’s employer are in dispute; or

2. where her husband’s employer is being sued as an employer by one of its employees to recover worker’s compensation.

The applicable Rule is 2.11(A) which provides that Judges should disqualify themselves in proceedings in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including, but not limited to enumerated instances, none of which are here applicable. For that reason, the relationship is not per se grounds for disqualification. It should be stated, however, that even though the existence of this relationship is not per se grounds for disqualification, it does not necessarily follow that disqualification may not be required under particular circumstances which exist in a particular situation. Both personal bias and the appearance thereof are, in the final analysis, highly subjective, and great care should be exercised by a judge to comply, under the existing circumstances, with the admonition of Canon 1 that “a Judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his activities.”

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 1.2(B), 2.4(B), 2.11(A). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #20, #33, #54, #72, #84, #93, #128, #140, #168.]

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