February 25, 1983
Opinion No. 83/2
Judge in joint venture with attorney
This is in response to your inquiry of January 20th, 1983. You stated you wish to enter a joint venture (development of property) with a lawyer. The lawyer does not practice in the workmen's compensation field. You, of course, recognize you cannot hear any cases involving the lawyer or any of the other partners in the venture. You want to know if this is proper.
Of the seven members responding to your inquiry all were unanimous you may properly enter into the venture. In Opinions No: 76/20 and 81/2 we held a judge could own real property in partnership with a lawyer. In Opinion 82/12 a sharply divided Committee held that a judge could own a motel in partnership with a lawyer. The minority felt the judge should not do so because other members of the law firm would appear before that judge and "litigants and their counsel will undoubtedly feel at great disadvantage appearing before the judge in any case involving his business partner's law firm." Inasmuch as the lawyer in this case does not practice workmen's compensation, the aspects of Opinion No. 82/12, which caused the division of opinion, are not present in this case.
One of our members added the further caveat that you not use your office in any way to solicit or obtain tenants for the building. For example, if one of the workmen's compensation insurance carriers were to rent space in the building, you should disqualify yourself on cases involving that carrier.
James T. Carlisle
Chairman, Committee on Standards
of Conduct Governing Judges
All Committee Members