Opinion 23-202


February 1, 2024


Facts/Issue:    A full-time court attorney-referee asks if it is ethically permissible to purchase a home at a court-conducted auction or in an online auction, in a county different from the one where the referee works.


Discussion:     We have advised that a judge who has had “no judicial involvement” in a home foreclosure sale to be held in the same court where he/she presides may purchase the home at the foreclosure sale, but “must not lend, nor appear to lend the prestige of his/her judicial office to influence the sale.” 


                      Thus, we specifically cautioned the judge not to
(1) “seek or act on any information that has not yet become available to the public about homes that will be offered for foreclosure” in his/her court,
nor (2) “
alert his/her co-judge or court personnel” of the judge’s interest in the sale other than in the same time, place and manner as other members of the public, nor (3) “voluntarily disclose” the judge’s judicial status in the course of the sale unless required to do so by law or administrative rule.


Conclusion:     A quasi-judicial official may purchase a home at a court-conducted auction or through an online auction platform, provided he/she had no involvement in the home foreclosure and does not lend, or appear to lend, the prestige of quasi-judicial office to influence the sale.


Authorities:    Opinion 09-134.