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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2008-19A (December 18, 2008)
New Judge; Transition to Bench; Former Law Firm; Compensation;
Canons 2, 3(c) & 5(c); Rule 1.5(e) of the Rules of Professional Conduct

Issue: May a Judicial Official accept payment from a former law firm for a case initiated on behalf of a client that the Judicial Official had brought to the firm as a “rainmaker” and for whom the Judicial Official had provided nominal legal services, where the fee arrangement was made in lieu of any payments for his/her interest in the practice?

Response: The facts presented included, inter alia, that (1) there was a verbal separation agreement that specified the percentage of fees that the Judicial Official would receive from the total legal fees the firm received for cases initiated on behalf of clients the Judicial Official brought to the firm prior to the Judicial Official’s departure, and (2) the client was aware of the fee arrangement and approved the payment to the Judicial Official. The Committee unanimously approved the Judicial Official’s receipt of payment when the sole remaining case is finally settled, although that will occur approximately four years later than the firm and Judicial Official had contemplated when the separation agreement was entered. The Committee noted that while the verbal pre-existing separation agreement was acceptable, it was preferable for such agreements involving Judicial Officials to be in writing. The Committee also noted that the Judicial Official should consider whether the decision to accept payment may affect the Judicial Official’s qualification to hear matters involving the client, opposing parties and the law firm.


Committee on Judicial Ethics

 


 

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