Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Snitch on a judge? You must be kidding.

Any lawyer who knows about an intimate relationship between a judge and a lawyer appearing before him or her certainly has a duty to report it. Nonetheless, matters like this are almost never reported - especially if they involve a judge.

I'll wager that in the Texas case very few lawyers will admit to having "actual knowledge" of the relationship, contending that riding to work in the same car and having the same address are circumstantial and that no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors (my apologies to Ronnie Milsap and Charlie Rich). Or that there's a vast difference between what one "knows" and what one can prove; can one have "actual knowledge" without having evidence of the type admissible at trial? Or that they both are outstanding lawyers who would never let their personal relationship interfere with their professional conduct (no harm - no foul).

Take the duty to report misconduct one step further. If a judge has a duty to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and a lawyer has a duty to report judicial misconduct, then to the extent this blatant appearance of impropriety was "common knowledge," doesn't every attorney who knew about it have a duty to report the pair and let the disciplinary system determine whether the relationship was an ethical violation by either, neither, or both of them? Or does "common knowledge" somehow change the duty?

1 comment:

Stephen said...

I don't know the home address for any judge, as a result, I'd be hard pressed to realize that a judge was dating a prosecutor.

Especially in general jurisdiction courts, where the judge hears civil, family and criminal matters, it is easy to miss connections like that.

Even more when there are many judges in a county and they don't have law clerks.

The only people who should have a clue are those in the defense bar. Obviously they discovered that relationship well after the fact.

I'm a litigator in the area and live in the county. First I heard of it was when it hit the paper.

Just FYI.