Opinion No. 83 (1986)

QUESTION: Would a judge violate the Code of Judicial Conduct by appointing an attorney to represent indigent, if the attorney is an employee of a law firm consisting of the judge's father, brother, and the attorney receiving the appointments? All fees paid to the attorney for the judicial appointments would benefit the law firm.

ANSWER: Canon 3B(4) states in pertinent part as follows: "[A judge shall] exercise his [or her] power of appointment only on the basis of merit, avoiding nepotism and favoritism. [A judge shall] not approve compensation of appointees beyond the fair value of services rendered." Although the appointment of a father's or brother's employee would not be nepotism, such action would indirectly accomplish that which cannot be done directly. It violates the spirit of Canon 3B(4) and could be considered favoritism. Canon 2 states that a judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of his activities. Your committee is of the opinion that judicial appointments made under the factual situation posed would violate the Code of Judicial Conduct.