Friday, November 30, 2012
The Massachusetts Committee on Judicial Ethics has a recent opinion on the propriety of a judge in a small community hearing cases in which his former law firm appears.
The Code does not mandate your recusal from all cases in which attorneys from the Firm appear before you, unless you were involved in the matter in controversy while you were at the Firm. The two-part Lena test therefore applies, and you have already conducted the subjective component and concluded that you can handle the Firm's matters impartially. The objective test remains, and you are in a better position than the Committee to determine whether a disinterested observer would question your impartiality in handling Firm matters given your eleven-year absence from the Firm, the lack of relationship between you and the attorneys who have joined the Firm during that eleven-year period, and the disruption to the court, attorneys, and litigants that your frequent recusals cause.