2013-05 (March 22, 2013)
New Judge; Transition to the Bench; Former Law Firm; Email
May a Judicial Official continue to use for personal matters an email address created by the Judicial Official’s former law office?
Additional Facts: A Judicial Official would like to continue using his/her former law office email address for personal purposes and is willing to pay his/her prorated share of any expense required to maintain the email account to avoid any gift from the firm to the Judicial Official. The email address consists of the Judicial Official’s three initials, followed by the Judicial Official’s last name and the phrase “law.com.” (i.e., the email address is in the form of: BCD@Doelaw.com and the law firm’s name is “Doe & Doe”). The Judicial Official indicated that he/she plans to recuse him/herself from any case in which the law firm appears.
Response: Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct states that a judge “should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the … impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge violated this Code or engaged in other conduct that reflects adversely on the judge’s honesty, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge.”
Based upon the information provided, the Committee unanimously agreed that the Judicial Official should not continue to use his/her former law firm’s email address because it gives the impression that the Judicial Official is still associated with the law firm in violation of Rule 1.2’s proscription against avoiding impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.