Q: If attorney works for the judges Law Firm is it a conflict of interest
Yes and no. Generally, I would expect the Judge to recuse himself/herself from the case if s/he has a close relationship with one of the attorneys or a firm on the case they are hearing such as you are describing. There are exceptions to the conflict of interest wherein the Judge has no interaction or influence on the firm and was simply employed with or part-owner of the firm but no longer has any connection with their prior firm. Sometimes they can have a disclosed friendship or other relationship but the Judge indicates the relationship does not impact the case and they can remain impartial and all parties agree to waive the potential conflict of interest.
Another example of an exception is if a former attorney/staff member worked on the case or represented the opposing party X but then left that firm & joined a firm representing party Y. The new employee can completely isolate themselves from any discussions/work related to the case now that their new firm represents party Y. If they establish a confidentiality wall, then they may be able to remain on the case. Hope that helps. FYI, you have only 10 days in San Diego County to recuse a Judge upon assignment, so if this is a new appointment you can file a form to recuse the Judge and get a new one assigned. Otherwise it will be up to you or your counsel to object due to the conflict of interest and see how the court decides to handle it.
Normally, a Judge does not have a law firm. Only temporary judges, who are attorneys who volunteer their time to hear Traffic, Small Claims and other limited cases, can practice law and still preside from the bench. So, unclear if this is the Judge's FORMER law firm. In any situation, things are too close. Judges must avoid the APPEARANCE of impropriety, whether there is actual impropriety or not.
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