Risk Update

Judicial Conflicts (Part 2) — Docket Clerk Imputation and Other Relations

Continuing our miniseries on judicial conflicts with a hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog for noting a few recent opinions, first from the South Carolina Advisory Committee on Standards of Judicial Conduct: “Docket Clerk’s Relationship Not Imputed To Judge” —

  • “A municipal court judge’s docket clerk is in a relationship with a law enforcement officer for the same municipality. The docket clerk is responsible for scheduling cases and documenting events that occur in cases while in open court. The docket clerk is also responsible for case management, including recording final dispositions in Municipal Court cases and following instructions from the municipal judge(s). The docket clerk appears in court regularly and may be present at the same time that the law enforcement officer the clerk is dating appears to prosecute traffic cases. The municipal court judge inquires as to whether he or she must disclose to all parties the relationship between the docket clerk and the law enforcement officer, or if the docket clerk should be recused from handling those cases.”
  • “In this case, the judge is not actually involved in a relationship with the law enforcement officer, and there is no cause to question the judge’s impartiality. Furthermore, the docket clerk merely performs ministerial duties regarding case scheduling and management. Thus, there is no need to recuse the docket clerk from cases in which the law enforcement officer appears. Likewise, there is no need for the judge to disclose the relationship of the docket clerk and the law enforcement officer to all parties.”
  • Full text of opinion.

Next from the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee: “A Judge’s (Ap)parent Conflicts” —

  • 1. Whether a judge whose lawyer-parent is no longer associated with former law firm must continue recusing from the law firm’s cases. ANSWER: No.
  • 2. Whether judge whose parent owns building leased to a law firm must enter automatic recusal when the firm has a case before the judge. ANSWER: Yes, unless the parent’s interest can be classified as de minimis.
  • Full text of opinion.