Thursday, October 25, 2012

Law Of Stepniece Disqualification Explored

A recent opinion from the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee:


1. If a judge’s stepniece is employed as an attorney with  the Public Defender’s Office, is the judge’s disqualification required in all  criminal cases in which a public defender is involved?


2. If a judge’s stepniece  appears before the judge, is the judge per  se disqualified pursuant to Canon 3E, Code of Judicial Conduct?

ANSWER: No. Disqualification may be  required, however, depending upon the relationship between the judge and the stepniece.

3. Should the judge disclose  that the judge’s stepniece is appearing before the judge as an attorney in a  criminal case?



The inquiring judge currently presides over  a criminal division, and attorneys with the Public Defender’s Office regularly  appear before the judge.  When the judge  was a child, the judge’s mother remarried a person who, by a previous marriage,  had a child (stepsister to the judge).   The stepsister never lived with the judge, and the stepsister has a  child (stepniece to the judge). The judge’s stepniece just passed the bar and  is an attorney with the Public Defender’s Office.  The inquiring judge has not advised this  Committee of how close of a relationship the judge has with the stepniece.  The judge’s stepfather is deceased.

(Mike Frisch)

Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink

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