June 1957

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST—PRIVATE PRACTICE BY JUDGES—Although there may be no legal sanction, it would be improper for a county judge, who appointed as guardian the widow of a man killed in a collision, to represent the defendant in a suit brought by the widow in her name and as guardian, for her husband’s wrongful death.

Canon 6.  A.B.A. Judicial Canons 24, 31.


Upon the application of the widow of a man who was killed in a collision between the vehicle in which be was riding and the truck of a motor transportation company, she was appointed guardian of the persons and estates of her two minor children by the county judge, as probate judge, and directed to file suit against the transportation company for damages accruing to the children as a result of the death of their father and her husband. After such suit was filed, the county judge, in his capacity as practicing attorney, accepted employment to defend the transportation company.

Is it unethical for such attorney to defend such transportation company in that suit since he, as probate judge, had appointed deceased's widow guardian of their two minor children and directed her to file such suit?


All members of the committee are of the opinion that the county judge would not be legally barred from accepting employment to defend said transportation company under the facts stated, citing Article 319, Texas Statutes, and Texas Ethics Committee Opinion No.13, although one member says categorically that "a county judge has no business practicing law." (8-0)

On the other hand, all members of the committee are definitely of the opinion that under such circumstances the county judge should not accept such employment and that for him to do so would be calculated to lessen public confidence in the integrity of the courts. (8-0)

In addition, all members except one are of the opinion that such conduct is unethical and violates Texas Canon of Ethics 6 in being a representation of conflicting interests. They feel that a county judge could not reconcile his duty on the one hand to see that the wards receive every benefit the law allows with a duty on the other hand to the transportation company to exert an all-out effort to defeat recovery of the guardian in the damage suit. Opinions 48 and 143 of the Texas Ethics Committee and Judicial Canons 24 and 31 of the American Bar Association are cited in support of this view. (7-1)