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March 25, 1999

 

 

The Honorable Ralph C. Ohm
Municipal Judge for Garland/Hot Spring Counties
Division II
626 Malvern Avenue
Hot Springs, Arkansas 71901

 

RE: Advisory Opinion # 99-03

Dear Judge Ohm:

You have asked that after we issued our opinion # 98-07, you and David H. White, city attorney for the City of Hot Springs, terminated your financial relationship and your office sharing arrangement.

You stated that Mr. White will employ the secretary that you have shared, and that you would like to contract with this individual to perform typing services as an independent contractor paid directly by you. You stated that this individual might perform these services at her home or at Mr. White's offices during her lunch break. So long as the termination of your financial relationship with Mr. White is genuine and you no longer share common offices, we find nothing in the Code of Judicial Conduct that would prohibit your independently securing the services of Mr. White's secretary.

Your second inquiry related to a continuing relationship with a former client. You stated that prior to January 1, 1999 (the date you took office) Mr. White had a contract with the Arkansas Public Entities Risk Management Association (APERMA) in which this organization paid Mr. White a retainer for legal services. Your stated that Mr. White had then paid you a part of this retainer for your assistance in this representation, but that relationship has now been terminated. You stated that APERMA has proposed to place both you and Mr. White on separate retainers, and you asked for our opinion as to the ethical propriety of this arrangement.

If you are a Acontinuing part-time judge as defined in the Code of Judicial Conduct, you may engage in the practice of law so long as: your judicial duties take precedence over all your other activities (Canon 3A); your practice does not cause reasonable doubt on your capacity to act impartially as a judge, demean the judicial office you hold, interfere with the proper performance of you judicial duties (Canon 4A); you avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety (Canon 2), and otherwise do not violate the Code.

In the facts as presented, we are not told the nature of the work to be performed for APERMA. For instance, will you and Mr. White be doing office work independently for this organization or will you be working together on the projects? Will you be appearing together in courts or other public forums representing APERMA? If you and Mr. White will each be performing office work for APERMA, both independently of each other, we see no violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct so long as such work does not otherwise violate the Code. However, we cannot pre-approve every aspect of this relationship, and you should approach this endeavor with prudence and discretion.

 

Very truly yours,

 

Edwin B. Alderson, Jr.

For the Committee

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