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February 11, 1999

 

 

Mayor Bob Mathis
City of Hot Springs
P. O. Box 700
Hot Springs National Park, AR 71902

RE: Advisory Opinion No. 98-07 Corrected Copy

Dear Mayor Mathis:

In your request for an opinion dated January 27, 1999, you incorporated by reference a letter written to us by David H. White, Hot Springs City Attorney, dated December 10, 1998. Those letters advised us that Mr. White is City Attorney for the City of Hot Springs; that the assistant city attorney under Mr. White's supervision, who does not share offices with Mr. White, prosecutes the city's traffic and city code cases in the Municipal Court of Hot Springs. You also state that Ralph Ohm was elected and took office on January 1, 1999 as the part-time Municipal Court Judge of Hot Springs. Mr. White pays Mr. Ohm a monthly fee for helping him with his private practice in representing other public entities, counties, cities and their subdivisions. In addition, these two men share office space, personnel and equipment.

You asked if it would be appropriate for Judge Ohm to hear cases presented by Mr. White's assistant. The Canons provide that a judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety and that a judge shall not engage in financial and business dealings that involve the judge in continuing business relationships with those lawyers likely to come before the court. The clear answer is that to hear such cases would be a violation of Canon 3E even if Mr. White discontinued paying the monthly retainer fee to Mr. Ohm for helping him with his private practice, but continued the office sharing relationships. See also our opinions 97-03 and 97-05. Remittal of disqualification is covered in Canon 3F.

 

Very truly yours,

 

Edwin Alderson

For the Committee

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