March 24, 1993

Opinion 93-15

Canon 3C - Disqualification - Spouse as bank officer
Canon 2B - Avoid appearance of Impropriety

Re; Committee on Standard of Conduct Governing Judges - Your inquiry dated December 29, 1992

Dear

You state your spouse is currently employed as branch manager and vice president at a local office of a multi-state regional bank. Your spouse's duties include all that is normally associated with the position of branch manager. However, you state your spouse is not in any way involved in litigation decisions made by the bank.

You want to know:

1) Whether you are required to recuse yourself in all cases in which the bank is a party (even if your spouse is not involved in and manner) or

2) Is disclosure to the parties of your spouse's employment sufficient.

Five Committee members believe that disclosure to the parties of your spouse's employment is required and sufficient. You are not required to automatically recuse yourself in all cases in which the bank is a party. You are required to recuse yourself after disclosure if requested by a party.

Four Committee members believe that Canon 3C(1) mandates disqualification in all cases because your impartiality might reasonably be questioned. Canon 3C(1)(c) states a judge should disqualify himself or herself if the judge knows that the judge's spouse has a financial interest in the subject matter.

One member states you should follow the procedure in Canon 3D, Remittal of Disqualification. Instead of withdrawing from the bank's cases, you should disclose on the record the basis of your disqualification and obtain in writing an agreement of the parties that your spouse's relationship is immaterial and that you may participate in the bank's case.

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).


Sincerely,

Harvey Goldstein, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges

HLG/mh

cc: All Committee Members
Office of State Court Administrator (name of Judge deleted from this copy)


Participating members: Judges Tolton, Green, Booth, Levy, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Edwards, Esq.