February 8, 1993
Disqualification - Spouse as court reporter
You state that your spouse is a free-lance court reporter and does not appear in Court before you.
You have inquired whether there is a judicial ethical problem if your spouse is the court reporter on discovery depositions taken in cases assigned to you. Further, you have inquired whether there is a judicial ethical problem if your spouse is the court reporter on depositions to perpetuate testimony taken in cases assigned to you. Some of these depositions might be read into evidence at trial.
Six Committee members are of the opinion that the Code of Judicial Conduct does not directly apply to this inquiry because it is not contemplated judicial activity. The code does not regulate the employment of spouses. However, you should attempt to persuade your spouse to not create situations that would result in unnecessary judicial disqualification.
Taking depositions in cases assigned to you would not necessarily result in judicial disqualification and should not normally be a problem. However, reporting depositions taken to perpetuate testimony in trials assigned to you may raise questions of impartiality if you found yourself reviewing your spouse's work product and the parties disagreed on the accuracy of the record. This may and may not be a problem depending on the frequency of the occurrence and proper disclosure.
In opinion 81-9, this Committee opined that a judge's spouse or the spouse's court reporting firm should not serve as the judge's official court reporter.
Four Committee members believe your spouse should not be reporting your cases. One Committee member states that the accuracy of the transcript can be a substantial issue in your court. This member states it would be unseemly for you to review your spouse's work product. Another member states that you should disclose your spousal relationship any time your spouse's work product is in your court. This member suggests you should disqualify yourself in any cases that testimony was perpetuated by your spouse.
The committee is expressly charged with rendering advisory opinions interpreting the application of the Code of Judicial Conduct to specific circumstances confronting or affecting a judge or judicial candidate. Its opinions are advisory to the inquiring party, to the Judicial Qualifications Commission and to the judiciary at large. Conduct that is consistent with an advisory opinion issued by the committee may be evidence of good faith on the part of the judge, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions issued by the committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct for Judges, 327 So2d 5 (Fla.1976).
With regards, I remain,
Yours very truly,
Harvey Goldstein, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Participating members: Judges Tolton, Green, Booth, Levy, Dell, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Clarke, Esq.
Office of State Court Administrator, Legal Affairs &Education