August 25, 2019

Colorado Judicial Ethics Advisory Board Opinion: Judge Whose Daughter is Marrying Deputy DA Must Recuse from That Attorney’s Cases but May Preside Over Cases from Other Attorneys in Same Office

The Colorado Judicial Ethics Advisory Board issued C.J.E.A.B. Formal Opinion 2012-07 on October 31, 2012, finalized and effective October 29, 2012.

Opinion 2012-07 considered a situation where a judge’s daughter was in a relationship with a deputy district attorney in the judge’s district. The judge is a District Court judge whose docket includes criminal cases. Throughout the course if his daughter’s relationship, the judge recused himself from cases involving her boyfriend, and made a full advisement when other attorneys from that district attorney’s office appeared before him. Recently, his daughter became engaged to the deputy district attorney, and the judge requested an opinion on whether he must recuse from all cases involving the district attorney’s office, and also if he could serve as the weekly “duty judge” who reviews and approves search and arrest warrants.

The Judicial Ethics Advisory Board concluded that the judge must continue to recuse himself from any case in which the deputy district attorney who is engaged or married to his daughter appears, but he may preside over cases from other attorneys in the district attorney’s office, provided that his future son-in-law has no personal involvement in those cases and provided that he makes a full disclosure to all parties regarding the relationship.

The Judicial Ethics Advisory Board also determined that the judge can continue serving as the weekly “duty judge” as long as his future son-in-law is not involved with preparing or reviewing any of the search or arrest warrants and affidavits.

The Board considered relevant portions of the Code of Judicial Conduct in making its determination, particularly Rule 2.11(A)(1) and (2)(b), which require recusal when a judge has a personal bias or prejudice, and there is a familial relationship. The discussion also noted that the potential for impropriety is greater in the private sector than the public sector for financial and reputational reasons.

All of the Colorado Judicial Ethics Advisory Board opinions may be found here.

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