1997-16: Disqualification where judge's spouse is vice president of department of parent corporation whose subsidiary is a party in a case before the judge.

1997-16: Disqualification Where Judge's Spouse is Vice President of Department of Parent Corporation Whose Subsidiary is a Party in a Case Before the Judge 

DISCLAIMER:  This Opinion interprets the 1993 Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct, which was superseded on January 1, 2023, by the 2023 Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct.  This Opinion does not consider or address whether the 2023 Code affects the analysis or conclusion of the Opinion.  A table cross-referencing the 1993 Code to the 2023 Code can be found at  IJEC CORRELATION TABLE.

IJEC Opinion No. 1997-16

July 9, 1997


Disqualification where judge's spouse is vice president of department of parent corporation whose subsidiary is a party in a case before the judge. 


Disqualification will not be required where interest of judge's spouse, as vice president of department of parent corporation, in subsidiary corporation case before the judge is de minimis. 


Illinois Supreme Court Rule 63D; Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee Opinion Nos. 94-18, 96-18 and 96-25. 


A judge's spouse is the Vice President of Human Resources in a parent corporation that has a number of subsidiaries, one of which is a hospital. 


May the judge hear small claims cases in which the hospital is the plaintiff or divorce cases in which a debt to the hospital is in dispute? 


Whether the judge's impartiality could reasonably be questioned is a question of fact. The question of how much of a financial interest the judge's spouse has in a case involving a subsidiary corporation of his or her employer must be addressed. Given the bare facts described, it seems unlikely the judge's spouse would have more than a de minimis interest in the outcome of these cases. See IJEC Opinion No. 94-18 (duty of judge to disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding when a relative of the judge is associated with a law firm representing one of the parties); 96-18 (judge's daughter being associated with firm appearing before judge did not require disqualification); 96-25 (duty of judge to disqualify where the judge has insurance policies with an insurance company that is a defendant in a case before the judge). 

If the judge concludes that his or her spouse's involvement with the parent corporation could cause the judge's impartiality to be reasonably questioned in cases involving the subsidiary, the judge could disclose the basis for disqualification and ask the lawyers and the parties to waive it under Rule 63D. 

In an opinion previously issued by the Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee, No. 94-18, the Committee noted that with regard to whether a relatives interest in a particular proceeding is sufficient to require disqualification, a judge should consider the following factors:

1. The nature of the case, in particular its financial or other impact on the relative's law firm; 

2. The relative's position in the firm as partner, shareholder, associate, or of counsel and; 

3. The size of the law firm.