Appointment of Certain Attorney as Counsel

November 6, 1989

CJE Opinion No. 89-6

You have requested the advice of this committee on the applicability of the Code of Judicial Conduct to your ability to appoint a particular lawyer as counsel in juvenile matters when her husband is a full-time member of the faculty of a law school of which you have just become a trustee.

The committee has already come close to answering this inquiry quite recently. In Opinion 89-5, we interpreted Canons 1 and 2, which address general standards of conduct and avoidance of the appearance of impropriety and in particular the prohibition imposed on a judge not to "lend the prestige of his office to advance the private interests of others . . . ." We advised that it would violate these canons for a judge to claim reimbursement from the Commonwealth for renting an apartment from the spouse of a colleague while assigned away from home when that apartment was not available for rental by the public generally. The committee, however, stated explicitly that it did not "mean to suggest that the appointment of a judge's spouse or child as a master, receiver, or bar advocate on the same basis that other lawyers receive such appointments would violate Canon 2. There would be a Canon 2 problem only in an out-of-the-ordinary situation, such as that presented by excessive appointments given to such a spouse."

The committee believes that that statement provides the basis for answering your inquiry. You have already established the pattern of appointment of this lawyer, with whom you have had no social, business, or professional relationship, before you became a trustee of the law school. You have no social, business, or professional relationship with her husband other than the fact that he is a member of the faculty of that school. Your relationship to the spouse of a faculty member at the law school, as you describe it, is no closer than that of a judge to the spouse or child of a judicial colleague. The committee therefore finds no impediment in the canons to your continued appointment of the lawyer as counsel in juvenile matters, subject to the caution that it set forth in CJE Advisory Opinion 89-5.