PARTNERSHIPS - COUNTY ATTORNEY AND COUNTY JUDGE OF SAME COUNTY AS PARTNERS IN FIRM - It is generally improper for two attorneys to continue as partners when at the same time one is the county Attorney and the other the County Judge of the same county.
May attorneys who are partners continue as such if one is the County Judge and the other is the county Attorney at the same time of the same county; provided, of course the Canons of Ethics, such as the canon against discussing a case with a judge in the absence of the opposing counsel, are observed?
The understanding that constitutes the basis for the law partnership is that neither partner will take a case which is or might be the subject of litigation in the County Court of their residence and the emoluments of office do not constitute a part of the partnership income.
The limitations upon such a partnership make it practically impossible for it to exist.
As one member of the Committee expresses it: "It is my opinion that it would be unethical for them to practice in partnership on anything unless they exclude everything which might be forbidden to either of them. On the other hand, if each of them will do nothing which it would not be improper for either him or the other to do, they can practice as partners, if they can avoid violation of the inhibition against the judge's name appearing in the name of the firm. That might be difficult to do but I am not prepared to say it would be impossible."
As to trial work, the partnership is obviously limited to cases in district and appellate courts and cases in other counties. Of course, no criminal matters could be accepted; see Opinion 23. No matter could be accepted as to which either partner is disqualified; see Opinion 173.
The last sentence of the first paragraph of Canon 30 says that "If a member of the firm becomes a judge, his name shall not be continued in the firm name." Also, if there is enough probability of such an arrangement impairing the confidence of the community in the administration of justice, it should probably be labeled as unethical. Although Opinion 173 seems to admit tacitly that a County Judge may have a law partner, provided his name is not in the firm name, as judge who is permitted to do private practice is in a position of great delicacy and must be scrupulously careful to avoid conduct in his practice whereby he utilizes or seems to utilize his judicial position to further his professional success.
Since it is unethical for the judge's name to appear in a firm name, and since as a practical matter a partnership of this nature could scarcely exist without a firm name which included the judge's name, and since there is a need for a judge to refrain from the appearance of evil as well as from evil, our conclusion is that the proposed partnership should be held to violate Texas Canon 30. (7-0).