JUDGE AS TRUSTEE OF FAMILY TRUST AND AS
BUSINESS PARTNER OF AUNT AND COUSINS

Opinion No. 151 (1993)


QUESTION: May a judge handle her family's business interests, some of which are held in trust and in partnerships with an aunt and several cousins?

ANSWER: Yes. Canon 5C(1), (2), and 3 allow this activity if the business is not a publicly owned business, does not require the judge's frequent disqualification from cases, does not reflect adversely on the judge's impartiality, does not interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties, does not exploit her judicial position, and does not involve the judge in frequent transactions with lawyers or others likely to come before the judge's court. The affirmative answer to this question assumes that none of these conditions will occur.

Further, a judge may serve as a fiducial for a member of her own family, if such service will not interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties. This affirmative answer is subject to the conditions stated in Canon 5D, i.e., the judge should not serve if her fiduciary duties will engage her in proceedings that "that would ordinarily come before the judge, or if the estate, trust, or award would become involved in adversary proceedings in [her] court or one under its appellate jurisdiction."