PRACTICE OF LAW BY A DISTRICT JUDGE SOLICITATION AND REFERRALS BY A DISTRICT JUDGE A district judge may not properly sign pleadings or otherwise counsel in a district court case prior to a trial. A district judge may not properly solicit business for any member, though under some circumstances he may properly refer individuals to a particular attorney.
Canons 24, 25, 29.
Is it a violation of the Canons of Ethics for a district judge to:
A. Sign pleadings and otherwise participate as counsel in a district court case prior to the trial?
B. Refer individuals to and openly solicit business for a particular lawyer who took over the judge's practice when he qualified as district judge?
Such action set out in subdivision A hereof is improper and violates Canon 29, Texas Canons of Ethics.
Such action described in subdivision B hereof is improper and violates Canons 24 & 25 of the Texas Canons of Ethics.
A. Article 319, VACS, prohibits a district judge from appearing and pleading as an attorney in any court of record in this state. Section 2 of the Canons of Ethics states that the code of ethics is cumulative of the state laws, and accordingly this committee in Opinion No.13, held that it is unethical for a county judge to practice law in violation of the law. The inquiry states that the district judge signed pleadings and participated as counsel after becoming judge; it seems that this is a violation of Article 319, VACS, and unethical conduct.
Canon 29, Texas Canons of Ethics, states that "No client. . . is entitled to receive, nor shall any member render any service or advice involving disloyalty to the law, or disrespect of the judicial office. . . ." For a judge to render legal services in violation of Article 319 violates Canon 29.
B. The Texas Canons above referred to are not necessarily violated by the conduct of a judge in referring individuals to a particular lawyer who took over the judge's practice when he went on the bench, assuming there is nothing else involved, such as fee splitting or solicitations. A judge on many occasions may need to suggest to a layman that he consult a lawyer; and if the problem is viewed from the standpoint of enabling a layman to secure the most competent representation possible, the public good may well be served in many instances by permitting a judge to suggest a particular lawyer to the layman. In this instance, however, the inquiry also includes the statement that the judge, ". . . is openly soliciting business for this young lawyer. . . ." If this conclusion as to the judge's referral activities is true, it is a violation of Texas Canons 24 and 25, on the part of both judge and lawyer. Solicitation of business by a judge for a lawyer violates the canons regardless of whether the lawyer assumed the judge's former practice. (9-0)