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April 6, 1993

 

Judge John W. Martin
Brinkley Municipal Court
Box 472
Brinkley, AR 72021 

RE: Advisory Opinion 93-02

Dear Judge Martin,

Your letter of March 22nd asks whether you, as a part-time municipal judge, may represent an individual in a domestic relations matter when the adverse spouse of that individual has an outstanding fine balance owed to the municipal court over which you preside? Your related question is whether a part-time judge may represent a client such as a bank in a debt collection action against an individual who has an outstanding fine balance with the municipal court?

Part-time judges are subject to most of the same ethical standards as full-time judges. See Code of Judicial Conduct, Compliance Section (A). Judges are to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in all their activities, Canon 2, and accordingly part-time judges are to avoid that appearance in their private practice of law. The representation of one party and the simultaneous judicial supervision or control over the adverse party creates the potential for judicial manipulation to gain an advantage for the private client.

If a judge were to represent the client, the judge would be obligated to recuse when the adverse party next appeared in municipal court. See Canon 3 (c)(1). Because judges are to conduct their financial affairs to minimize the frequency of disqualification, Canon 5(C)(1 & 3), the judge should not accept this private client.

By representing such a client, the part-time judge may have a financial interest in the success of that client. The success of that client, and therefore the financial reward to the part-time judge, may hinge upon the status of the adverse party's outstanding fine balance in municipal court.

For all of these reasons our conclusion is that, in both instances, you should not accept these cases in your private practice of law.

Sincerely,

 

James A. Badami
For the Committee

 

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