1997-18: Judge hiring fellow judge's child as secretary as nepotism.

Opinion No. 97-18 
November 20, 1997 

TOPIC: Judge hiring fellow judge's child as secretary as nepotism. 

DIGEST: The hiring by one judge of a secretary who is the child of a fellow judge does not automatically amount to nepotism. 

REFERENCES: Rule 63B(4); Missouri Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline Advisory Opinion 55 (1/12/81); Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline Advisory Opinion 89-1/issue 2 (1/17/89). 


Because this judge was regularly assigned each week to courts in three different counties, the judge was authorized to hire a part-time secretary. After interviewing applicants, a fellow judge heard about the opening and directed his or her child to apply. The judge found the other judge's child to be well qualified and was tested by the Personnel Department of the County. However, the judge is concerned that there might be some ethical questions because of the relationship. 


Is it automatically a violation of Rule 63B(4) for a judge to hire the child of a fellow judge as a part-time clerk of court? 


No. Rule 63B(4) states that a judge should exercise his or her power of appointment "...only on the basis of merit, avoiding nepotism and favoritism". Since the facts indicate that the judge did interview a number of applicants and that this one was found to be qualified, the hiring would not violate the Rule. It would be well for the judge to preserve some kind of a record that would preserve the conclusion that the judge's child was in fact qualified for the position. 

Similarly, Ohio Advisory Opinion No. 89-1/issue 2 holds that a judge may appoint the well-qualified spouse of another court employee to a court position as long as it is based on the qualifications of the person. Further, Missouri Advisory Opinion 55 holds: "The daughter of a circuit judge may serve as a clerk for an associate circuit judge. The daughter was hired by the associate judge, not appointed by her father."