May 1, 1995
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
(Disclose Attorney Representation
In re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your Inquiry Dated March 9, 1995
Your question is: since one year has passed since the "termination" of the representation of the attorney that handled lawsuits wherein you were named defendant and that settled within policy limits, is it proper for you to hear cases involving the former attorney or his law firm.
In Opinion 86-9, this Committee found that a judge may hear cases which involve an attorney who recently represented the judge. The Committee did recommend a lapse of at least several months before allowing the attorney or firm to appear. Additionally, Opinion 79-2 held that although a judge need not voluntarily recuse himself or herself in cases where a member of the firm that currently represented the judge in Federal Court appeared, the judge should "offer to recuse himself upon request." See also Opinion 95 15.
It should be noted that Opinion 93-56 stated that "...if a judge discloses possible conflict, then upon motion, the judge should recuse regardless of the legal sufficiently of the motion."
Our Committee's response only addresses the ethical implications and not the legal requirements for recusals. However, due to the limited nature of the representation and the passage of one year, a majority of the Committee agree that you may hear cases involving the former lawyer or his law firm and that you do not need to disclose the representation or recuse yourself in cases with the attorney or his firm.
One concurring member agreed that no Canons would be violated, but personally would disclose.
The sole dissenting member felt you should disclose and called for a reconsideration
of Opinion 93-56.
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 judges, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions by the Committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, 327 So.2d 5 (Fla. 1976).
Very truly yours,
Steve Rushing, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct
CC: All Committee Members
Office of the State Courts Administrator
(Name of judge deleted from this copy)
Participating Members:Judges Doughtie, Kahn, Patterson, Rushing, and Silverman