March 22, 1976
Re: Canon 2, 5G
This is in responswe to your recent inquiry concerning the propriety of a circuit judge having supervision of an estate in probate to make an offer on a house owned by the estate. You indicate that the house has been on the market for some time without being sold. You further indicate that the house is on multiple listing which will expire shortly and that at the expiration thereof you inten to make an offer equal to the last offer, less the real estate commission.
A majority of the Committee (8-2) is of the opinion that under the Code of Judicial Conduct, it would be impermissible for you to purchase this property under the circumstances described in your inquiry. Two members of the Committee expressed the view that the purchase would not be improper where either (1) there is a complete disclosure to the personal representative and any interest heirs or (2) supervision of the estate was assigned to another judge and an offer made to the personal representative for the purchase of the property with full disclosure of the circumstances being made. In particular, the Committee directs your attention to Canon 5C(1) which provides in part that "a judge should refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to...exploit his judicial postition"; and Canon 5C(7), which provides that "[i]nformation accquired by a judge in his judicial capacity should not be used or disclosed by him in financial dealings or for any other purpose not related to his judicial dutiies."
Your further attention is directed to the Commentary appearing under Canon 2 whaich states in part:
"...A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. He must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. He must therefore accept restrictionsa on his conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly."
We appreciate your inquiry and trust the foregoing will be of some assistance
Chairman, Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Participating members: Boyer, Hanlon, Haverfield, Hewitt, Kaney, Mason, Murphee, Stephenson and Thomas MacDonald, Esquire