2013-20 (May 20, 2013)
Disclosure/Disqualification; Social Relationship; Attorneys
Rules 1.2, 2.4 & 2.11
An attorney to whom a Judicial Official used to refer cases while the Judicial Official was in private practice, and who also referred cases to the Judicial Official, used to meet the Judicial Official socially for lunch approximately once every 6 months. Does the Judicial Official have a duty to disclose the nature of their relationship or recuse himself or herself if the attorney appears before the Judicial Official and, if so, for how long does the duty to disclose or recuse last?
Response: Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge “shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and 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.”
Rule 2.4 (b) states that a judge “shall not permit family, social, political, financial, or other interests or relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.”
Rule 2.11 states that a judge “shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including, but not limited to, the following circumstances: (1) The judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s lawyer, or personal knowledge of the facts that are in dispute in the proceeding.…”
Based on the facts presented, including that this is a past relationship and no longer ongoing, the Committee determined that the Judicial Official and attorney have a minimal social relationship that does not require disqualification provided that:
- The Judicial Official does not believe that he/she has a personal bias or prejudice (favorable or unfavorable) involving the attorney; and
- The Judicial Official fully discloses the relationship with the attorney to the parties and their counsel for a reasonable period of time, which is not less than two years from the date of their last social contact (including any ongoing social contacts). Thereafter, if a motion to disqualify is filed, the Judicial Official should exercise his or her discretion in deciding the motion based upon the information provided in the motion and the accompanying affidavit, as provided for in Connecticut Practice Book § 1-23, as well as the particular circumstances of the case.