April 1, 1993
Canon 3C - Disqualification
Disclosure of Law Firm's Prior
Representation of Judge on Real Estate Sale/Purchase
You ask for what period of time must you continue to disclose that a large local law firm represented you a year ago in the sale of one home and the purchase of another home. You state you do not believe you must permanently disqualify yourself in cases in which the law firm appears. You expressed concern that continued disclosure or disqualification may hinder your ability to obtain local legal representation.
The Committee has just answered a similar inquiry in Opinion 93-17, a copy of which is attached.
All eight participating Committee members believe you do not need to continue to disclose the above considering the limited circumstances you have provided the Committee. By analogy, several Committee members state there is a custom that judges do not hear for one year cases involving former law partners or associates. However, if you maintain strong social ties with the law firm that represented you, disclosure should continue. Also, it is the nature and extent of the legal representation that is critical. One test is whether an objective, disinterested person knowing all the circumstances would reasonably question your impartiality because of the past relationship.
Another member states that particular circumstances may lead a judge to conclude that recusal is best in a given case.
Three members state that representation in connection with the purchase and sale of a home is fairly perfunctory and doesn't lead to extended and intimate legal relationships. However, they state if the legal representation was for litigation or in a contested divorce and the representation extended for a period of time, they would feel differently about the need to disclose.
Two judges state there is no particular significance to one year but the need to disclose depends on the circumstances of each cases.
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, Dell, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Clarke, Esq.
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