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Opinion 79

A judge, who is a minority stockholder in a small corporation which sells bottled water, has asked for an Advisory Opinion as to whether an agreement, under which the corporation would compensate a lawyer who practices in his court for legal services through payment of a royalty fee on the amount of water sold, would constitute a conflict of interest or have unethical implications.

Rule 3.11(B) provides:

(B) Judges should refrain from financial and business dealings with lawyers, litigants, and others that tend to reflect adversely on their impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of their judicial duties, or exploit their judicial positions.

Canon 1 further provides:

Judges shall uphold the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities.

In the opinion of the Commission, the proposed arrangement would involve an unavoidable risk of an appearance of impropriety.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 1.2(B), 2.4(B), 3.11. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #32, #42, #71, #119, #128, #135, #136, #142, #182.]

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