November 19, 2007
From Judge To Advocate
An attorney acted in a judicial capacity in a child abuse case by presiding at hearings and entering a series of three orders. The judge later entered an appearence in the divorce action between the litigants in the child abuse case and was disqualified on the motion of the other side. The Mississippi Supreme Court held that the two matters were substantially related and that the lawyer had violated Rule 1.12: "While the two cases do not share the same docket number, they do involve the same parties, the same issues, and the same concerns. As a judge, [the lawyer] personally and substantially participated in the...child abuse action, which was focused exclusively on the visitation of the minor child."
The court noted that the rule "is designed to preserve the integrity of the legal system from real or potential conflicts of interest" but noted that "[the judge] wished to become counsel of record...in order to help the minor child, and we cannot impugn that honorable impulse." The court imposed a public reprimand. A dissent favored a 90 day suspension. (Mike Frisch)
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