March 26, 2021
This responds to your inquiry (21-39) asking about your ethical obligations if your law clerk’s second degree relative obtains employment with a local law firm as an attorney.
The Committee has previously advised that a judge is not required to disqualify him/herself when an attorney who is a relative of the judge’s law clerk within the fourth degree of relationship appears in the judge’s court. Instead, the judge must disclose the relationship and advise that the law clerk will be insulated from the attorney and their law firm’s cases. After disclosure, if a party objects to the judge’s continued participation, the judge has the sole discretion to exercise recusal.
If the attorney/relative is in private practice, the judge’s disclosure obligation extends to the attorneys’ partners and associates. However, if the attorney/relative appears on behalf of a public law office, the judge’s obligation is limited to only those cases where the attorney actually appears or has had some involvement, such as a supervisory role, in the case.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 14-174; 13-104; 13-26; and 11-151 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
Margaret T. Walsh
Supreme Court Justice
Acting Supreme Court Justice