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Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics
Informal Opinion Summaries

2012-09 (Emergency Staff Opinion issued April 4, 2012)
Rule 2.11
Issue: Is a Judicial Official disqualified from presiding over a case if a former partner of the Judicial Official serves as a special master?  If not, should the Judicial Official disclose the relationship with the former law partner?

Additional Facts: The first time a case appears on the docket, it is referred to a special master to see if the matter can be resolved or the issues narrowed.  If the case is settled or the issues narrowed, the special master reports that to the court, otherwise it is simply reported to the court that the matter could not be resolved.  The Judicial Official recuses himself or herself when the former partner appears in court before the Judicial Official.

Response: The inquiry was circulated to the Committee members and input solicited.  On the facts presented, it was determined that the former law partner when acting as a special master was serving as an agent of the court in a neutral capacity, and therefore the Judicial Official’s impartiality should not be reasonably questioned within the meaning of Rule 2.11 and the Judicial Official is not automatically disqualified.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Judicial Official should disclose the prior relationship and if an objection is raised with respect to the former partner serving as the special master, rather than recuse him or herself, the Judicial Official should assign the case to a different special master. If necessary, the case could be continued in order to be referred to a different special master.

Committee on Judicial Ethics



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