Subject Matter Index: Conflicts; Disqualification

Note: This page focuses on recent opinions addressing questions about possible conflicts, disqualification, and/or remittal.  To access other portions of the subject matter index, please use the general topic links above.
 

Conflicts; Disqualification

(See 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.3[E]-[F]; Judiciary Law 14.)

Sub-Topics: Other Judges | Court Personnel | Judge's Relatives | Judge's Social Relationships | Judge's Former Employment | Judge's Current or Former Lawyer | Judge Seeking Post-Judicial Employment | Judge's Business and Financial Interests or Concurrent Employment | Judge's Election Campaign or Appointment | Judge's Prior Judicial Decisions or Actions | Disciplinary Complaints; Lawsuits; Criticism | Town and Village Justices | Judge's Extra-Judicial Activities | Ex Parte Communications | Miscellaneous | Mechanics of Disqualification and Remittal

 

Conflicts - Other Judges

Addresses possible conflicts due to the participation of another sitting judge, or a person connected to another judge, or a former judge -- whether as a party, attorney, or witness.

 

Administrative or Supervising Judge

Opinion 17-16 A new judge, who previously served as law clerk to his/her current supervising judge and attended multiple events at the judge's home, must disclose the relationship in cases involving the supervising judge's spouse's law firm. Thereafter, the judge may preside if he/she can be fair and impartial after considering all relevant factors. However, because disclosure is mandatory, the judge must disqualify him/herself if a party in the case is appearing without counsel. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 16-77 A judge, whose administrative judge has commenced a lawsuit against certain entities and attorneys for alleged misconduct in the judge’s court, is not disqualified from cases involving those entities and attorneys, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. The judge need not make any disclosure of the administrative judge’s lawsuit but may do so in his/her sole discretion.

Opinion 11-124 A judge may preside in a proceeding in which his/her administrative judge’s spouse appears as an attorney, in the absence of any other disqualifying factor and assuming he/she can be fair and impartial, even if a party or counsel objects. The judge is not required to disclose the attorney’s marital relationship but may do so if he/she wishes without incurring any obligation to disqualify him/herself.

Opinion 10-60 (1) Disqualification of all judges within a judicial district is not required solely because a party to the proceeding is a landlord who owns the building that houses the administrative offices of the judicial district.

 

Co-Judge (Judge of the Same Court)

Opinion 20-120 May a town justice continue to serve on the town court if their first-degree relative assumes the other town justice position?

Opinion 19-43 May a part-time town justice preside in matters involving (1) the police officer-spouse of their co-judge or (2) the current law firm partners or associates of their co-judge?

Opinion 19-23 May a full-time judge preside in matters involving his/her part-time co-judge’s former partners or associates?

Opinion 19-13 (1) A judge may preside in cases involving his/her co-judge’s former private law firm associates, including a former associate who is the co-judge’s relative. (2) A judge may preside in cases involving his/her co-judge’s spouse and the spouse’s current attorney colleagues in a government law office. ...

Opinion 18-62 A judge may preside in cases where a judicial colleague’s former temporary part-time law clerk appears, provided he/she can be fair and impartial. Disclosure is not required. Under the circumstances, the judge also need not insulate his/her principal court attorney from cases involving the former law clerk, even though the court attorney provided supervision and guidance.

Opinion 17-150 ... (3) Other judges of the court may preside in matters where their co-judge’s second-degree relative appears as counsel, assuming they can be fair and impartial. ...

Opinion 17-86 A full-time judge may not permit his/her part-time co-judge's partners and associates to engage in the practice of law before him/her and, thus, may not accept papers for filing which were evidently prepared by the co-judge's partner.

Opinion 17-31 May a judge preside in a criminal case where the complainant is his/her co-judge's adult child, and the judge has no relationship with the complainant other than purely "happenstance" interactions?

Opinion 16-65 A judge may appoint a qualified attorney who is also a co-judge’s first-degree relative to handle cases before other judges of the court as a special prosecutor, where the appointment is not governed by Part 36.

Opinion 15-137 Must a judge disclose or disqualify him/herself from cases in which his/her co-judge's spouse has served (or may serve) as a social worker for a defendant on referral by the probation department?

Opinion 15-107/15-110 A judge need not make any disclosure or disqualify him/herself from a criminal case solely because a co-judge’s spouse has served, or may serve, as a social worker for the defendant on referral by the probation department, provided the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 15-108 May a judge preside when his/her co-judge's child, or a law firm with which the co-judge's child is affiliated as special counsel, appears before the judge?

Opinion 15-87 May a judge preside in cases involving the District Attorney's office, when a co-judge's spouse is employed as an Assistant District Attorney?

Opinion 15-41 May a judge preside when his/her co-judge's child appears before the judge as an attorney?

Opinion 13-112 What are a part-time judge’s ethical obligations with respect to his/her co-judge practicing law in the village court where the judge also presides?

Opinion 12-154 A judge need not disclose that an attorney appearing before him/her is a first-degree relative of the judge's co-judge or disqualify him/herself, as the judge's impartiality cannot reasonably be questioned solely on that basis.

Opinion 09-47(A) A part-time lawyer judge may not permit the practice of law in his/her court by a co-judge’s partners or associates or by an attorney who, while not an associate of the co-judge’s law firm in the traditional sense, is considered to be an associate for purposes of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. A town justice may otherwise preside over matters involving municipal departments that employ a co-judge's first-degree relatives and when the first degree relatives appear on behalf of the municipal department that employs them, as long the judge can be impartial.

Opinion 09-20 A full-time city court judge whose co-judge is also an assistant county attorney need not disqualify him/herself in matters involving the County Attorney who employs his/her co-judge or when another assistant county attorney from the same County Attorney’s office appears in the judge’s court. However, the inquiring judge should disqualify him/herself in any proceeding where the County Attorney’s office appears if his/her co-judge was involved as an assistant county attorney.

 

Other Judges, Generally; Retired Judges

Opinion 21-16(A) Where a judge’s law clerk previously served as law clerk to a recently retired judge, and that ex-judge is now employed as an attorney in a government law office: (1) if the ex-judge does not appear, the judge may preside and need not insulate the law clerk or disclose the prior employment in matters involving that government law office; (2) for two years, if the ex-judge appears, the judge may not preside unless the judge insulates the law clerk and discloses the prior employment relationship.

Opinion 19-130 A judge (1) may appoint a retired judge to the roster of neutrals for the same trial-level court in which he/she previously served, provided the appointment is made impartially and on the basis of merit; (2) may refer matters to the retired judge for mediation, unless he/she determines their relationship would create an appearance of impropriety; (3) may consider and decide the retired judge’s fee applications for mediation services, unless the judge determines their relationship might improperly influence the judge’s conduct or judgment.

Opinion 19-75 A court attorney-referee, who works closely with part-time judges in his/her capacity as counsel to their administrative judge, may ordinarily preside when part-time attorney judges appear on behalf of private clients.

Opinion 16-114 Provided he/she can be fair and impartial, a full-time judge may preside in matters involving (1) a government agency where the judge’s former public sector colleague and current social acquaintance has a high-ranking position and (2) a public law department headed by a part-time judge. No disclosures are required in these circumstances.

Opinion 16-54 (1) Under the circumstances, a judge need not disclose or disqualify him/herself from a case solely because one defendant (a) is a judge in the same geographic region and (b) previously had some minimal political and professional connections with the judge’s current law secretary. (2) The judge may, in his/her sole discretion, disclose such connections as a purely prophylactic measure without incurring any further obligation.

Opinion 14-96 May a judge preside in a particular uncontested matter, in which the parties are a judge and his/her spouse with whom the judge has had very limited social interaction over the years?

Opinion 14-81 Neither disqualification nor disclosure is required solely because a party appearing before the judge is the judge’s judicial colleague’s spouse.

Opinion 13-150 When a part-time judge is appointed to a full-time judicial position in the same court, is there a waiting period before part-time lawyer judges who preside in other courts in the county may appear before him/her? Once the judge discontinues his/her law practice, is there a waiting period before the judge's former law firm colleagues may appear before his/her co-judges?

Opinion 12-37 (1) A former judge of a court, other than an Appellate Division or the Court of Appeals, may practice law in his/her former court immediately upon leaving the bench. (2) A former judge is ineligible for appointments governed by Part 36 of the Rules of the Chief Judge for two years after the judge leaves judicial office in any court within the jurisdiction where the judge served. (3) A judge is not necessarily disqualified from presiding when a former judge of the same court appears before him/her. (4) Support magistrates, judicial hearing officers, and referees are disqualified, subject to remittal, when a former judge of the court in which they serve appears, for two years after the former judge's term of office ends.

Opinion 12-05 A judge who is a former law clerk is disqualified, subject to remittal, when his/her former supervising judge appears as an attorney, for one year after the employment relationship ended. Thereafter, for one additional year, the judge must disclose his/her former employment relationship with the former judge, but has the discretion to grant or deny a resulting motion for recusal. Moreover, during this two-year period, the judge may not preside over matters in which his/her former judge or supervisor appears if any party to the matter is proceeding without legal representation. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 10-155 A judge must determine whether his/her relationship with a former colleague of the same court who appears as a private practitioner in the judge’s court requires his/her disqualification.

Opinion 10-135 If a judge believes that he/she can be impartial, the judge need not disqualify him/herself where (1) an attorney appearing in the judge’s court formerly was the judge’s co-judge in a different court; (2) an attorney appearing in the judge’s court was the town attorney at the same time the judge was town justice for the same town; (3) the judge learns the identity of campaign donors from a plaintiff’s motion papers.

Opinion 10-60  (2) Although a Judicial Hearing Officer may not appear before any judge of a court in which the JHO is designated to serve, the judges of that court need not disclose nor exercise recusal solely because the partners and associates of the JHO appear in a matter.

Opinion 10-41 May a judge give assignments pursuant to County Law article 18-B to a judge who recently retired from the same court? Does it make a difference that the judge's current law clerk previously worked for that recently-retired judge for ten years?

Opinion 09-117 May a Supreme Court Justice preside over a tax certiorari proceeding bought by a Surrogate Court Judge elected within the same district?

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Conflicts - Court Personnel

This section attempts to collect opinions issued since 2009 addressing (a) possible conflicts for judges based on activities or relationships of court personnel, (b) whether a judge must prohibit certain outside activities of court personnel, and (c) whether a judge must decline to hire (or object to hiring) certain court personnel based on their outside activities or relationships. 

Index: EMPLOYMENT - NEW/FUTURE Former Law Clerk's New Employment; Current Law Clerk's Future Employer  | EMPLOYMENT - CONCURRENT Court Personnel As Part-Time Judge  | Concurrent Employment Outside the Judiciary | EMPLOYMENT - PAST Court Personnel's Former Employment | FAMILY Court Personnel's Relatives or Relative's Employer | COUNSEL Court Personnel's Current or Former Lawyer | POLITICS Court Personnel's Political Activity | CHARITABLE/CIVIC/TEACHING/PUBLIC SERVICE  Court Personnel's Other Outside Activities | SOCIAL Court Personnel's Social Connections | WITNESS/LITIGANT Court Personnel as Witness or Litigant | MISCELLANEOUS

 

Former Law Clerk's New Employment; Current Law Clerk's Future Employer

Opinion 18-62 A judge may preside in cases where a judicial colleague’s former temporary part-time law clerk appears, provided he/she can be fair and impartial. Disclosure is not required. Under the circumstances, the judge also need not insulate his/her principal court attorney from cases involving the former law clerk, even though the court attorney provided supervision and guidance.

Opinion 17-153 Where a judge's court attorney is negotiating potential employment with a large administrative agency that is a party to nearly every case before the judge, the judge must insulate the court attorney from all cases involving that agency. Insulation on this basis is subject to remittal after full disclosure, provided that no party is appearing without counsel. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 17-19 When a judge's former court attorney has become the District Attorney, and the judge is disqualified from matters involving the DA's office for one year, is such disqualification subject to remittal?

Opinion 16-144 (1) A judge whose law clerk becomes the District Attorney is disqualified, subject to remittal where permitted, from presiding in cases involving the DA’s office for one year, even if the judge is presiding in veterans court. (2) To the extent lawful, practical and appropriate, it is ethically permissible to streamline the remittal process by incorporating the requisite disclosures and consents into the parties’ and their counsel’s written agreement to transfer the case to veterans court.

Opinion 16-19 An appellate judge, whose former law clerk is now a support magistrate, may serve on an appellate panel reviewing a Family Court judge’s decision to grant or deny objections to the support magistrate’s factual and legal determinations. The appellate judge need not disclose the former law clerk relationship.

Opinion 15-58 A judge whose court attorney is elected District Attorney must disqualify him/herself for one year, from all matters where his/her office appears. [Note: Opinion 17-19 clarifies that disqualification on this basis is generally subject to remittal.]

Opinion 15-14 An appellate judge who learns that his/her law clerk is seeking post-clerkship employment: (1) should advise him/her to keep the judge fully informed of the status of his/her applications; (2) must internally insulate the law clerk from all cases involving a prospective employer once the judge learns the prospective employer offered employment to the law clerk or that the law clerk and prospective employer are actually discussing or negotiating a position; (3) must internally insulate the law clerk from all cases involving the law clerk’s future employer once the judge learns the law clerk has accepted a job offer; (4) may discontinue insulating the law clerk from a prospective legal employer once the judge learns that the law clerk will not join that law office after the law clerk’s court employment ends. The judge need not affirmatively disclose to parties or counsel that he/she has insulated the law clerk, but may explain the procedures voluntarily if he/she wishes to do so.

Opinion 14-27 (1) Ordinarily, for a period of one year after a judge’s personal law clerk leaves the judge’s employ to join a private law firm, the judge must fully disclose the former relationship when the former law clerk’s current law firm colleagues appear in the judge’s court. After disclosure, the judge has the discretion to grant or deny any subsequent request for recusal based on all the facts of the relationship and the particular case. However, if any party is proceeding without legal representation in the case, the judge must not preside. (2) Where the former law clerk is a salaried, non-equity employee of the law firm, however, if the law firm demonstrates to the judge’s satisfaction it has taken steps to ensure the judge’s former law clerk is completely insulated from all of the firm’s cases litigated in the judge’s court for a period of one year from the date the law clerk’s court employment with the judge ended, the judge may thereafter preside in matters involving the law firm without incurring any obligation to disclose the former law clerk’s employment with the firm. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 13-174 What are a judge's obligations when his/her former law clerk, who is now employed by an agency which regularly appears before in your court, appears before him/her?

Opinion 12-45 Disclosure is not mandatory where a retired appellate judge's former principal law clerk appears before the court, provided that the matter is not one in which the attorney personally participated and the presiding judges conclude that they can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 10-107/10-158 (1) Provided a judge’s former law clerk is otherwise qualified, a judge may appoint his/her former law clerk to Part 36 positions, except where the case was pending before the judge during the law clerk’s term of employment. However, if a former law clerk the judge so appointed to a Part 36 position appears before his/her former judge in an adversarial role within one year after his/her employment with the judge ended, the judge must disclose that employment relationship, but has the discretion to grant or deny any subsequent request for recusal based on all the facts of the relationship and the particular case. (2) Assuming the law clerk is otherwise qualified, a judge may appoint his/her former law clerk as a referee to hear and report findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Surrogates Court Procedure Act §506 and as a referee to supervise disclosure pursuant to Civil Practice Law and Rules §3104(a) anytime after the law clerk retires, but need not disclose their former employment relationship.

Opinion 09-07 What are the obligations of Family Court judges in matters where a former court attorney appears on behalf of clients?

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Court Personnel's Concurrent Employment as Part-time Judge

(See also "Dual Employment within the Judiciary")

Opinion 19-71 A town justice who also serves as principal court attorney in superior court for a designated youth part judge: (1) may arraign adolescent offenders in the county's centralized arraignment part; (2) must be insulated as a court attorney from (a) cases he/she arraigned in the centralized arraignment part and (b) all cases originating in or appealed from the town court; but (3) need not otherwise be insulated as a court attorney from adolescent offender cases merely because they were arraigned in the centralized arraignment part.

Opinion 19-16 A part-time justice who also serves as full-time secretary to a superior court judge is disqualified in cases involving the superior court judge’s spouse’s law firm.

Opinion 19-12 A town justice who also serves as a superior court law clerk must be insulated as a law clerk from all matters originating in the town court, and the insulation is not subject to waiver or remittal.

Opinion 19-05 A town justice who serves as a court attorney to a multi-bench county court judge: (1) must be insulated in the superior court from (a) all matters originating in the town court in which he/she presides and (b) every matter that touches on an incident over which the court attorney presided as a town justice, even if it was a completely separate case; (2) may preside in a town court criminal case involving a defendant who is also appearing before the superior court judge, even if the town court case may be resolved by a guilty plea in the superior court, provided the justice is insulated from the superior court criminal case; and (3) may not preside in a town court case involving a party who previously appeared before him/her as a court attorney in superior court for a pretrial conference of a family court matter.

Opinion 18-184 A part-time judge who is also a law clerk to a full-time judge in a criminal part may not avoid insulation as a law clerk in matters originating in his/her court by allowing his/her co-judges to assume responsibility for all felony arraignments, felony hearings and other felony-related criminal proceedings in that court.

Opinion 18-23/18-56 (1) A County Court judge whose full-time court attorney is also a town justice within the same county must insulate the court attorney from every matter that touches on an incident over which the court attorney presided as a town court justice, even if it was a completely separate case. The insulation must also be disclosed on the record to all parties and their counsel, and, since disclosure is mandated here in lieu of outright disqualification, the County Court judge must recuse if any party appears without counsel. (2) A town justice who is a full-time law clerk to a superior court judge may preside over criminal matters returned to the originating court, provided he/she was insulated from such matters as a law clerk. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 16-162 A County Court judge whose full-time court attorney is now a town justice within the same county may continue to preside over cases originating in or appealed from the Town Court, provided his/her court attorney is insulated from those cases and the insulation is disclosed on the record to all parties and their counsel. Because this disclosure is mandated in lieu of disqualification, if a party is appearing without counsel, the judge must disqualify him/herself. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 13-182 A part-time judge who also serves as a full-time principal law clerk to Judge B (1) may preside in cases where another part-time attorney judge, other than a co-judge, appears; but (2) is disqualified, subject to remittal, from cases where Judge B’s sibling appears.

Opinion 13-177 Provided the judge can remain fair and impartial and absent any other factor requiring disqualification, a part-time town or village justice who also serves as a county court judge’s law clerk may continue to preside in matters that involve legal issues the county court judge has addressed in an appellate capacity.

Opinion 10-98 May a full-time court attorney also serve as a part-time town justice in the same county?

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Other Concurrent Employment of Court Personnel

Addresses (a) conflicts a judge might face if court personnel's outside employer or colleagues may appear before the judge; (b) whether the judge may consent to the outside employment; and (c) whether the judge may consent to hire court personnel who would maintain specified outside employment.

Opinion 21-163 A town justice may consent to hiring a part-time court clerk who would, if hired, continue their current employment as a senior account clerk, in a strictly clerical capacity, in the payroll department for the county sheriff’s office. However, the judge must instruct the court clerk to advise the judge if the clerk’s non-judicial employment duties change materially.

Opinion 21-93 May a town justice allow the town’s Chief Constable to provide court security in the town court and to prosecute town ordinance violations “while also acting as a Court Officer”?

Opinion 21-83 On these facts, a town justice in a town encompassing a village with its own court may not allow the town court clerk to simultaneously serve as clerk to the village police, where (a) the two courts share the same justices and courtroom and (b) the clerical staffs share the same telephone and service window, interact throughout the work day, and cover for each other.

Opinion 20-88 Where a court officer’s job responsibilities include performing administrative and clerical duties for the court on days when the court is not in session, the judge may not permit a police officer to serve in this role.

Opinion 19-169 A full-time city court judge, in his/her capacity as an acting county court judge in a neighboring county, must disqualify, subject to remittal, from any matters in which his/her co-judge’s law clerk represented a defendant at arraignment. The judge has no obligation to take any curative action, including disclosure, with respect to matters that come before the judge in the city court, based on his/her co-judge’s law clerk’s employment as special arraignment counsel in another county.

Opinion 19-153 … (2) A town justice need not object to employing a court clerk who: … (b) will continue to work for a criminal defense attorney for one month while being trained by the outgoing court clerk, but must insulate him/her from matters involving that attorney during this period; and/or (c) during the interview, expressed interest in assisting the town clerk if hired as town court clerk.

Opinion 19-102 A town justice may not consent to employment of the town supervisor's full-time confidential secretary as a part-time town court clerk.

Opinion 18-92 May a town justice permit the court’s bailiff to serve also as the town code enforcement officer?

Opinion 17-145 May a village justice permit the village court clerk to complete a college internship for a district attorney's office located in a different county?

Opinion 17-58 A village court clerk may not accept appointment as associate village justice of the same court, even where he/she would act only in the absence of the other village justice.

Opinion 16-142 A town or village justice may not permit a part-time court clerk to accept outside employment as assistant to the local prosecutor that regularly appears in his/her court.

Opinion 16-53 May a town or village justice permit the court clerk to serve as an acting justice of the same court?

Opinion 15-216 A town or village justice may permit a part-time court clerk to accept part-time clerical employment with a law firm which will no longer appear in the judge’s court after hiring the court clerk. However, if the law firm does appear, the judge must disclose and insulate the court clerk.

Opinion 15-175 A judge may permit the justice court’s sole court clerk to maintain concurrent clerical employment at a substance abuse facility that may assess and/or treat people who appear before him/her, where the clerk’s duties at the facility are strictly clerical and the court clerk is insulated from patients and their records.

Opinion 15-159 A town justice may consent to the appointment of his/her first-degree relative as town court clerk and permit his/her relative to continue full-time clerical employment with a private law firm that appears in the court twice a year, provided the town justice disqualifies him/herself from all matters involving the relative’s law firm employer.

Opinion 14-173 A village justice may not consent to hire a village court clerk who would concurrently be employed as an Admissions Officer in the County Sheriff’s office.

Opinion 13-131 A town or village justice may permit a local constable to serve as a part-time court security officer, but not as a court interpreter 

Opinion 13-28 It is inconsistent with the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct for a town supervisor to also serve as a security officer for the town court.

Opinion 13-03 A town justice may permit the court clerk to serve simultaneously as the town clerk for the same town in which the court is located.

Opinion 13-01 May a town justice permit a town employee to perform work in the court office when a regular court staff member is absent due to a vacation or illness?

Opinion 12-53 It is inconsistent with the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct for a town justice court clerk to also serve as deputy supervisor in the same town.

Opinion 11-90 May a judge permit their Principal Law Clerk to run for and serve as a Trustee for a village which is a part-time, paid elected position?

Opinion 11-62 Under the circumstances presented, a part-time judge may permit a newly hired court clerk to continue to work as an attorney in the judge’s private law office, performing organizational tasks, as long as such outside employment is legally permitted.

Opinion 11-25 A town justice should not hire as the court’s part-time clerk an individual who would be concurrently employed as Principal Clerk of Patrol Operations for the county sheriff’s department, where the sheriff’s clerk performs more than routine clerical duties and has frequent contact with local justice courts.

Opinion 10-165 May a town justice use the services of the current secretary to the town’s planning board as a part-time court clerk for 7 hours per week?

Opinion 10-154 A village justice may permit the village court clerk to also serve as a clerk for the same village where the judge presides, but may not permit the village court clerk to also serve as receptionist/clerk for the village police department that serves the same village where the judge presides. Unless otherwise prohibited by law, the village justice may have the Village Clerk assist the village court clerk in verifying court bank deposits.

Opinion 10-67 A village justice should not permit the clerk of the village court to also work as a park ranger for the same village.

Opinion 10-42 May a town justice permit the court clerk to serve on the town board?

Opinion 10-20 May a town justice permit a part-time court employee, whose primary job is to assist the court clerk as a data entry person on a limited part-time basis, to also serve as a part time constable in the same town?

Opinion 10-10 A town justice may permit the justice court clerk to also serve as the Receiver of Taxes for the same town where the town justice presides.

Opinion 09-193 A judge who presides in a specialized part of the Supreme Court and receives assistance from an attorney who volunteers as a Special Master must disclose the relationship when other attorneys from that attorney's law firm appear in the judge's court. If a party objects to the judge continuing to preside, the judge has the discretion to recuse or, assuming he/she can be impartial, to continue to preside, depending on the circumstances in each case.

Opinion 09-184 A part-time judge who presides in a justice court may permit the court clerk to also serve as an elected part-time county coroner.

Opinion 09-152 A village justice may not permit his/her part-time court officer to serve simultaneously as the village code enforcement officer.

Opinion 09-121 May a town justice permit the town’s code enforcement officer to serve also as a part-time court security officer for the town court?

Opinion 09-31 A part-time town/village justice may not permit the municipality's code enforcement officer to also serve as a court officer in the justice’s court.

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Court Personnel's Former Employment

Opinion 21-42 May a judge permit their court attorney, a former assistant district attorney, to work on certain criminal cases that originated in the District Attorney’s office during the court attorney's tenure? In one instance, the court attorney made a single appearance in the case, while in the other, the court attorney had absolutely no involvement.

Opinion 21-16(A) Where a judge’s law clerk previously served as law clerk to a recently retired judge, and that ex-judge is now employed as an attorney in a government law office: (1) if the ex-judge does not appear, the judge may preside and need not insulate the law clerk or disclose the prior employment in matters involving that government law office; (2) for two years, if the ex-judge appears, the judge may not preside unless the judge insulates the law clerk and discloses the prior employment relationship.

Opinion 20-130 On the extraordinary circumstances presented, this judge must insulate their law clerk from matters involving a particular family.

Opinion 20-53 What are a judge’s ethical obligations in matters involving his/her court attorney’s former employer, the Department of Children Youth and Families?

Opinion 20-40 May a new full-time judge preside in certain matters involving his/her former law partner and his/her court attorney’s former law firm or former clients?

Opinion 20-06 (1) A judge must insulate his/her court clerk from all cases in which the court clerk participated in any way as an attorney, including as a mediator. The judge may preside if he/she can be fair and impartial. (2) The judge need not otherwise insulate the court clerk from cases involving (a) a party whose divorce the court clerk mediated or (b) a law firm for which the court clerk wrote and published blog posts on various matrimonial law topics in the law firm’s name. The judge may preside in such cases if he/she can be fair and impartial. (3) If the court clerk wrote an article about a specific pending case before the judge, he/she must insulate the court clerk from the case and can preside if he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 19-110 A judge must insulate his/her law clerk from cases in which the law clerk was personally involved during the law clerk’s prior public or private employment and must disclose that insulation to the parties and their attorneys. Insulation of the law clerk on this basis cannot be waived or remitted and does not expire. However, the judge need not necessarily insulate the law clerk from other matters involving the law clerk’s former employer or former clients, unless other factors create an appearance of impropriety in a particular case.

Opinion 19-82 May a judge permit his/her law clerk to work on cases in which the law clerk, in his/her prior employment, had previously provided coverage for a colleague at a single court appearance either as an 18-B attorney or as attorney for the child, if all parties waive the conflict?

Opinion 18-182 What are a judge’s obligations in family court matters where his/her court attorney previously served as attorney for the child?

Opinion 18-37 A judge who learns that a litigant or attorney in a case before him/her was formerly his/her law clerk's client in an unrelated legal malpractice action may continue to preside in the case, assuming he/she can be fair and impartial, and disclosure is not required. Absent factors creating an appearance of impropriety, the judge need not insulate the law clerk.

Opinion 16-166 A judge is not disqualified from presiding in matters involving the District Attorney’s office merely because his/her law clerk is a former assistant district attorney and the law clerk’s second-degree relative is currently an assistant district attorney. However, the judge must insulate the law clerk from (a) cases in which the law clerk had any personal involvement as a lawyer and (b) cases in which the law clerk’s second-degree relative appears and disclose the circumstances, including that the law clerk is insulated.

Opinion 16-99 (1) A judge is not required to disclose or recuse in matters involving the chief clerk’s former private law firm employer. However, the clerk must be insulated from any matters in which he/she was personally involved, including matters where he/she prepared, witnessed or notarized a will now offered for probate. (2) The judge may likewise preside over matters in which the chief clerk’s attorney spouse appears, subject to insulation of the clerk.

Opinion 16-14 What are a judge's obligations with respect to his/her law clerk's former private law firm employer?

Opinion 15-233 A judge must insulate his/her law clerk from all cases in which the clerk was personally involved as a non-supervisory staff attorney, even if the case will end by consent, default, or dismissal. That insulation neither expires, nor may it be waived nor remitted.

Opinion 15-204 In general, a judge may preside in a case even though the judge’s secretary once provided freelance transcription services at an earlier stage while it was pending in another court. However, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, if an attorney who is paying for the transcription services appears before him/her. That obligation continues until the work is completed and all fees are paid. Neither disclosure nor disqualification is required when the secretary’s services are paid for by the Unified Court System.

Opinion 15-172 A judge whose law clerk is the former District Attorney may continue to preside over cases involving the office, but must insulate the law clerk from cases that arose during his/her former tenure, and disclose the law clerk’s prior position and current insulation.

Opinion 15-115 A town judge may permit a court clerk, who was previously employed as the local police chief’s confidential secretary, to meet with the police department and town administration and explain notes the court clerk made during his/her prior employment.

Opinion 15-52 A judge may preside over a case where a clerical court employee, not the judge’s personal appointee, has provided freelance transcription services to a private attorney, but must insulate the employee from the case and disclose the employee’s prior involvement and insulation.

Opinion 15-43 A judge whose law clerk was personally involved in a case while employed by a government law office must insulate the law clerk from that case and disclose the insulation. The insulation may not be waived or remitted under these circumstances, but the judge may continue to preside in the case, provided that he/she can be fair and impartial. Conversely, where the law clerk held no supervisory role at the government law office and no personal involvement with a case, no disclosure or insulation is required.

Opinion 12-176 Must a judge recuse in a negligence action because an attorney who represented one of the defendants prior to the trial has been hired as a law clerk in the judge's court?

Opinion 12-155 (1) A judge must disclose facts that create an appearance that the judge's law clerk, during his/her former employment, was involved in representing the plaintiff in a matter currently before the judge, and must insulate the law clerk from the matter. (2) The judge has no obligation to disclose the law clerk's prior employment or insulate the law clerk in other, highly similar cases involving the same defendant, where the cases do not involve the law clerk's former client or prior employer and in which the law clerk has had no previous involvement. (3) The judge is not disqualified from presiding over any of these cases due to his/her law clerk's former employment.

Opinion 10-201 (1) Where a judge’s court attorney left his/her former law firm two years ago, but is currently a client of the firm with respect to a personal legal matter, the judge should insulate the court attorney from all matters involving the firm while the firm represents the court attorney and for two years after the representation ends.... (4) Under the circumstances presented, the judge should disclose the court attorney’s insulation from all cases involving his/her former law firm, but may preside in a case, even if a party objects, if he/she can be fair and impartial. (5) The question of whether a court attorney may pay a “much reduced rate” for private legal services received during his/her employment with the courts raises questions of non-judicial ethics that are beyond this Committee’s jurisdiction. NOTE: Modified by Opinion 13-26, which states "the insulation need only continue until the matter is concluded and the law clerk has paid all fees due and owing."

Opinion 09-111(A) An appellate court may engage attorneys, whose prior employers terminated their employment, or recent law school graduates, who are unemployed, to perform work for the court without compensation on a temporary basis. The court must insulate any such attorney assigned to the Law Department from cases involving any law firm or other legal service provider that employed the attorney during the two years immediately preceding the date the attorney begins working for the appellate court; and an appellate judge, to whose chambers an attorney is assigned to work under these circumstances, is disqualified from presiding in any matter involving a law firm or other legal service provider that employed the attorney during such two year period.

Opinion 09-27 When the prior employer of a recently hired court attorney appears on a case with which the court attorney was previously involved, and the court attorney performs work for the presiding judge, the judge must insulate the court attorney and disclose such insulation, and the underlying reason for it, to the parties and their attorneys. Thereafter, if a party asks the judge to recuse him/herself, the judge must exercise his/her discretion in light of the facts of the particular case in determining whether recusal is warranted.

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Court Personnel's Relatives or Relative's Employer Appearing Before the Judge

Addresses (a) conflicts a judge might face if court personnel's relatives or their relative's employer may appear before the judge; and (b) whether the judge may hire (or approve hiring) court personnel whose relatives maintain specified employment.

Opinion 22-16 A judge need not disqualify from a custody case merely because the judge’s confidential secretary has connections to both parties through marriage, but must insulate the secretary from any involvement in the matter. If a party objects to the judge’s participation in the case, the judge has the sole discretion to decide whether to exercise recusal.

Opinion 21-122 Where an attorney recently provided brief and preliminary legal advice to the judge's law clerk's child, the judge may preside in unrelated matters where the attorney appears without disclosure or insulation of the law clerk. 

Opinion 21-116 (1) Where a judge regularly assigns a particular attorney as 18-B counsel or attorney for the child in a large number of cases, if the judge hires that attorney’s life partner as the judge’s personal secretary, the judge (a) must not approve the attorney’s payment vouchers and (b) must not assign or appoint the attorney in future cases while the conflict persists.  (2) If these limitations will significantly interfere with the judge’s performance of judicial duties, the judge should not hire the secretary.

Opinion 21-39 What are a judge’s obligations if their law clerk’s second-degree relative obtains employment with a local law firm as an attorney?

Opinion 21-18 Once the judge’s law clerk’s first-degree relative retires and terminates their prior business and financial relationship with a law firm, the judge need not insulate the law clerk from new matters involving that law firm, even if the law firm continues to list the name of the retired attorney on its letterhead and website along with the dates of the retired attorney’s service with the firm.

Opinion 20-26 (1) A judge is not disqualified from presiding in matters involving the District Attorney’s office merely because the law clerk’s second-degree relative is an assistant district attorney. However, the judge must insulate the law clerk in all cases in which the law clerk’s relative appears. (2) The judge need not ask if the law clerk’s relative had some behind-the-scenes involvement in a particular case, where the relative does not personally appear and is not listed on the papers. (3) On these facts, the judge need not take any disciplinary action. (4) Provided no party is appearing without counsel, the law clerk’s insulation in matters involving his/her relative may be remitted, after full disclosure on the record, if the parties and their counsel affirmatively consent and their agreement is incorporated into the record, and the judge is satisfied the law clerk can be fair and impartial. The judge may take steps to expedite the remittal process, consistent with these principles. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 20-24 A judge is not disqualified from presiding in cases involving the attorney who employs the court attorney’s first-degree relative as a secretary, provided the judge can be fair and impartial and no party is appearing without counsel, but the judge must disclose the relationship and insulate the court attorney from such cases. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 19-153 ... (2) A town justice need not object to employing a court clerk who: (a) is the town supervisor’s second-degree relative, but must insulate him/her from all cases in which the town supervisor is personally involved or in which the town is a named party...

Opinion 19-128 A village justice may consent to hiring a part-time court clerk whose spouse is a village trustee.

Opinion 19-72 A judge need not disqualify him/herself, disclose the relationship nor insulate his/her secretary from a case involving a large public utility that employed the judge's secretary's non-lawyer, non-executive relatives in a division utterly uninvolved in the case.

Opinion 18-186 May a town justice consent to the hiring of a deputy court clerk whose cousin is an Assistant District Attorney who does not appear in the town court, although his/her colleagues may do so?

Opinion 17-129 May a town justice (1) hire a part-time court clerk who is the spouse of a police investigator in a special investigations unit for a nearby city?

Opinion 17-65  A village court clerk who is the village police chief’s third-degree relative must be insulated from all cases involving the village police.  Where such insulation would prevent the court clerk from performing his/her duties if hired, the village justice may not consent to the proposed employment.

Opinion 16-166 A judge is not disqualified from presiding in matters involving the District Attorney’s office merely because his/her law clerk is a former assistant district attorney and the law clerk’s second-degree relative is currently an assistant district attorney. However, the judge must insulate the law clerk from (a) cases in which the law clerk had any personal involvement as a lawyer and (b) cases in which the law clerk’s second-degree relative appears and disclose the circumstances, including that the law clerk is insulated.

Opinion 16-165 What are the obligations of a village justice who learns that the village plans to hire the village prosecutor's spouse as a full-time village court clerk?

Opinion 14-171 A judge is not disqualified from presiding when the court clerk’s second degree relative appears as an attorney but must insulate the court clerk from his/her relative’s cases.

Opinion 14-169 A judge may preside in matters involving the law firm that employs the spouse and first-degree relative of a principal court attorney who works exclusively for the judge, but must insulate the court attorney from the firm’s cases and disclose the insulation. Where the judge determines that a party is legally in default, the judge need not disclose such insulation to the defaulting party, and need not attempt to discern whether a defaulting party is represented by counsel. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 13-176  In a case where the attorney for the child is the judge’s personal appointee’s spouse, the judge must disclose the relationship and insulate his/her personal appointee. Provided that no party is appearing pro se and assuming the judge concludes that he/she can be fair and impartial, the judge may preside in the case, except that the judge may not approve any payment voucher the attorney for the child submits. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 13-138 (1) A judge should not appoint as his/her personal law clerk an individual whose police officer spouse supervises an investigative unit that is involved in half of the criminal cases on the court’s calendar; (2) a judge formerly employed by the Department of Social Services as an attorney may preside over cases in which the agency appears, provided that the judge was not previously involved in the case.

Opinion 13-80 A judge may preside over matters in which the judge’s summer intern’s parent’s law firm appears but must disclose the intern’s employment and insulate the intern from such matters.

Opinion 13-26 A judge is not required to disqualify him/herself when an attorney, who represents the judge’s law clerk or secretary or who is a relative of the judge’s law clerk or secretary within the fourth degree, appears in the judge’s court. The judge must disclose the relationship and that he/she will insulate the law clerk or secretary from the attorney’s and the attorney’s law firm’s cases. After such disclosure, if a party objects to the judge’s continued participation in the case, the judge has the sole discretion to decide whether to exercise recusal.

Opinion 12-178 Under the circumstances presented, a judge need not disclose a clerical court employee's familial relationship, or insulate the court employee, when the attorney who employs the court employee's non-lawyer relative appears in the judge's court.

Opinion 12-09 What are a judge’s ethical obligations now that the deputy chief clerk’s sibling is counsel for the local housing authority, which brings summary proceedings in the judge’s court?

Opinion 12-02 A judge is not disqualified from presiding in cases involving the county or its agencies or departments, solely because that judge’s court attorney is married to the county treasurer, provided the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial. Where the treasurer is a party, however, the judge should insulate his/her court attorney and disclose the relationship.

Opinion 11-151 A full-time judge, who presides in criminal cases and whose law clerk’s spouse is an assistant district attorney in the same county where the judge presides, must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal when the spouse has had any involvement in a case. If the judge’s disqualification is remitted and the judge is willing to preside, he/she must insulate the law clerk from the case. Remittal is not available if a party appears without representation. Note: Modified by Opinion 13-26, which calls for insulation of the law clerk rather than disqualification of the judge; Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 11-99 What are a judge’s obligations in matters involving attorneys from the respective law firms of the judge’s law clerk’s sibling and the law clerk’s sibling’s spouse?

Opinion 09-161 A family court judge must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, from any child protective case prosecuted by the judge’s court attorney’s child or an attorney the judge’s court attorney’s child directly supervises. [NOTE: Modified by Opinion 13-26, which requires insulation and disclosure, rather than disqualification.]

Opinion 09-154 (1) A judge whose law clerk is married to a partner in a law firm must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, in any case in which a lawyer from that firm appears. (2) Because the inquiring judge believes that he/she can be impartial in cases involving the law clerk’s spouse’s law firm, the judge should not initially arrange to have a court clerk automatically assign the law firm's cases to other judges, as it is not yet known to what extent parties and their lawyers will withhold their consent to remittal. (3) A judge must afford the parties and their lawyers a fair and reasonable opportunity to consult and reach a decision as to remittal of the judge’s disqualification. [NOTE: Modified by Opinion 13-26, which requires insulation and disclosure, rather than disqualification.]

Opinion 09-44 A judge need not disqualify him/herself nor disclose the relationship when the law firm that employs the judge’s secretary’s child in a non-legal position appears in the judge’s court, but the judge must insulate his/her secretary from the matter.

Opinion 09-43 (1) A judge who, prior to assuming the bench, shared office space with an attorney who now serves as the judge’s confidential law clerk and an attorney who is the judge’s personal secretary’s child, must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, when the attorney who is the judge’s personal secretary’s child appears in the judge’s court. If the judge’s disqualification is remitted and the judge continues to preside, the judge must insulate his/her personal secretary from any matter involving the attorney who is the personal secretary’s child. (2) The judge should not appoint the attorney who is his/her personal secretary’s child to serve as assigned counsel or as a law guardian.

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Court Personnel's Current or Former Lawyer

Opinion 21-21 While a judge’s law clerk is being represented by a law firm, the judge must insulate the law clerk from all matters involving that law firm and disclose the law clerk’s conflict and insulation when that law firm or any of its attorneys appear. After disclosure, the judge may preside if the judge is satisfied that they can be fair and impartial, even if a party objects.

Opinion 19-74 A judge need not recuse him/herself if a court officer’s attorney appears on behalf of other clients, and neither insulation nor disclosure is required.

Opinion 13-26 A judge is not required to disqualify him/herself when an attorney, who represents the judge’s law clerk or secretary, ... appears in the judge’s court. The judge must disclose the relationship and that he/she will insulate the law clerk or secretary from the attorney’s and the attorney’s law firm’s cases. After such disclosure, if a party objects to the judge’s continued participation in the case, the judge has the sole discretion to decide whether to exercise recusal.

Opinion 11-72(A) May a judge preside over matters involving a law firm with which the judge previously shared office space and which also currently provides personal legal services to the judge’s law clerk?

Opinion 10-201 (1) Where a judge’s court attorney left his/her former law firm two years ago, but is currently a client of the firm with respect to a personal legal matter, the judge should insulate the court attorney from all matters involving the firm while the firm represents the court attorney and for two years after the representation ends. ... (4) Under the circumstances presented, the judge should disclose the court attorney’s insulation from all cases involving his/her former law firm, but may preside in a case, even if a party objects, if he/she can be fair and impartial. (5) The question of whether a court attorney may pay a “much reduced rate” for private legal services received during his/her employment with the courts raises questions of non-judicial ethics that are beyond this Committee’s jurisdiction. NOTE: Modified by Opinion 13-26, which states "the insulation need only continue until the matter is concluded and the law clerk has paid all fees due and owing."

Opinion 10-72 Where a Family Court judge's secretary is being represented by a particular attorney in federal court, may the judge continue to preside in matters where that attorney appears as appointed or retained counsel?

Opinion 09-93 Need a judge take any other action between disclosure and insulation of the law clerk, in matters involving "the various attorneys involved in both the sale and purchase of [the law clerk's] home"?

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Court Personnel's Political Activity

Addresses (a) conflicts a judge might face based on court personnel's political activities; and (b) whether the judge must prohibit specified political activities by court personnel.

Opinion 20-141 Where a full-time judge’s personally appointed law clerk has neither a quasi-judicial title nor functions, the judge may permit the law clerk to participate in peaceful “Black Lives Matter” protests away from the courthouse during non-working hours, but must instruct the law clerk not to comment publicly on a pending or impending case by carrying signs calling for the arrest or prosecution of certain police officers in another state.

Opinion 19-132 May a full-time judge permit his/her personally appointed law clerk to 1) display a political candidate's yard sign on his/her solely or jointly owned property, 2) wear clothing featuring political messages away from the courthouse during non-working hours, 3) distribute political literature door-to-door or at a booth at a community function, away from the court house during non-working hours, and 4) "like" or "follow" pages of political campaigns and political organizations on social media?

Opinion 18-155 May a judge’s court attorney serve as a member of the county committee of a political party? If the court attorney first becomes a Unified Court System employee part-way through the year, how should the $500 aggregate limit on political contributions during “any calendar year” be applied?

Opinion 16-133 A judge may preside in matters involving an attorney who hosted a single fund-raiser for the judge’s law clerk’s election campaign, but must insulate the law clerk and disclose the insulation during the campaign. This obligation ends on Election Day.

Opinion 16-64 (1) A judge ordinarily may preside in matters involving an attorney who is the chair of a political committee on which the judge’s court attorney serves. (2) The judge need not insulate the court attorney or disclose the relationship when the town committee chair appears as an attorney, where committee membership is the only connection between the two attorneys, the proceeding does not involve the committee or related political issues, and the judge is satisfied that the court attorney can be objective.

Opinion 13-78 May a judge permit his/her law clerk to continue working on cases prosecuted by the District Attorney's office while the law clerk is the District Attorney's opponent in the upcoming election?

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Court Personnel's Civic/Charitable Outside Activities or Public Service (Non-Political, Non-Business): Serving on Boards, Engaging in Fund-Raising, Teaching, Etc.

Addresses (a) conflicts a judge might face based on court personnel's outside activities; and (b) whether the judge must prohibit specified outside activities by court personnel.

Opinion 20-141 Where a full-time judge’s personally appointed law clerk has neither a quasi-judicial title nor functions, the judge may permit the law clerk to participate in peaceful “Black Lives Matter” protests away from the courthouse during non-working hours, but must instruct the law clerk not to comment publicly on a pending or impending case by carrying signs calling for the arrest or prosecution of certain police officers in another state.

Opinion 18-155 May a judge’s court attorney serve on a community board or engage in charitable fund-raising?

Opinion 17-68 (1) A judge may permit his/her court attorney to (a) host fund-raisers away from the courthouse during non-working hours to offset costs associated with the court attorney's international adoption and (b) use personal social media accounts to promote the fund-raisers. (2) The judge need not prohibit the court attorney from accepting donations from attorneys under Part 100, but the judge (a) must not permit any contributions to be made or fund-raising activities to occur during working hours or on court property and (b) must insulate him/her from all matters involving those attorneys.

Opinion 17-129 May a town justice ... permit the court clerk to continue to serve on the local school board; and (3) allow the clerk, on his/her own time and away from court premises, to be involved with local charitable organizations that raise funds for school programs and the food pantry?

Opinion 17-122 A full-time judge may permit his/her law clerk to serve on a local zoning board of appeals. The judge may preside in cases involving the ZBA, provided the law clerk is insulated from those cases and the insulation is disclosed on the record to all parties and their counsel. Because this disclosure is mandated in lieu of disqualification, if a party is appearing without counsel, the judge must disqualify him/herself. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 16-115 A judge may permit his/her law clerk to teach a class on the Penal Law to law enforcement personnel, provided he/she does so in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary’s impartiality and integrity and does not suggest a predisposition on any particular matter. The law clerk should also be willing to teach a similar course to a defense-side audience, if requested.

Opinion 15-170 May a judge permit his/her Chief Clerk to serve on an advisory committee charged with helping develop a mediation program for the judge's court in order to represent the court's interests?

Opinion 15-25 Under these circumstances, a Family Court judge may permit his/her court attorney to serve on the board of directors of a not-for-profit organization which provides certain services to low-income residents in the region.

Opinion 12-46 A judge may not permit his/her law clerk to serve on the board of directors of a social services agency that appears frequently in the judge's current court and is also involved in the majority of cases in a court over which the judge expects to preside in the near future.

Opinion 12-15 May a judge permit their principal law clerk to continue on the board of directors of a charitable organization whose mission is "to connect, inspire and empower peacebuilders through education and the arts"?

Opinion 10-180 Where a judge’s law clerk serves on an advisory board for a doctor’s independent medical research and the doctor previously treated the law clerk’s child for a serious medical condition, the judge may preside in medical malpractice cases involving the hospital subject to the following limitations: (1) If the doctor is not involved in the matter, the judge need not disclose the law clerk’s relationship with the doctor or insulate the law clerk. (2) If the doctor is involved in the matter as a hospital employee, the judge must fully disclose the nature of the law clerk’s relationship to the doctor, insulate the law clerk and may preside if he/she can be fair and impartial. (3) If the doctor is involved in a matter as an independent researcher, the judge must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, and insulate the law clerk. (4) If the law clerk is likely to be a material witness in a matter concerning the doctor’s independent research, the judge must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal and insulate the law clerk if his/her disqualification is remitted.

Opinion 09-129 A judge should not permit his/her law clerk to participate with other members of the legal community in critiquing a trial advocacy course offered by the New York Prosecutor’s Training Institute.

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Court Personnel's Social Connections

Opinion 18-173 A part-time lawyer judge (1) need not disclose the relationship nor insulate a court clerk from a criminal case merely because the protected party under an order of protection is a social acquaintance of the court clerk and (2) need not disclose nor disqualify based on a former attorney/client relationship with the defendant's parents in an unrelated matter that concluded more than three years earlier.

Opinion 16-54 (1) Under the circumstances, a judge need not disclose or disqualify him/herself from a case solely because one defendant (a) is a judge in the same geographic region and (b) previously had some minimal political and professional connections with the judge’s current law secretary. (2) The judge may, in his/her sole discretion, disclose such connections as a purely prophylactic measure without incurring any further obligation.

Opinion 10-201 (2) Where a court attorney has invited several former law firm colleagues to his/her upcoming wedding, a judge should, for a reasonable time after the wedding occurs, insulate the court attorney from all matters in which the court attorney’s wedding guests appear. (3) To the extent that a court attorney is close friends with several former law firm colleagues, the judge should insulate the court attorney from all matters in which the court attorney’s close friends appear.

 

Court Personnel As Witness or Litigant

Opinion 21-176 Where the court’s chief clerk has filed a criminal complaint against a litigant for making threats against the clerk, whether the judge must recuse from the litigant’s pending matters is a discretionary decision to be guided by the judge’s conscience.

Opinion 21-174 (1) Provided the judge can be fair and impartial in the underlying criminal case, the judge need not disqualify if the judge or their law clerk cooperate as fact witnesses in a police investigation concerning a bench conference in which an active state trooper was identified solely as defense counsel’s “associate.” (2) The judge also need not insulate the law clerk, provided the judge is satisfied the law clerk can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 18-176/18-176(A)/18-177 ... (4) If the issue of the district attorney’s possible misconduct is likely to come before the county court judge, the part-time judge who serves as his/her court attorney should disclose to the county court judge that he/she could be called as a witness, but should avoid substantive ex parte communications to the extent practicable. (5) On these facts, a county court judge whose staff members may be called as witnesses retains discretion to preside over the case if he/she concludes he/she can be fair and impartial, but must (a) insulate court personnel who are potential witnesses from the case and disclose the insulation to the parties; (b) instruct the insulated court personnel not to discuss the case with him/her ex parte; and (c) disclose any substantive ex parte communications he/she may have received from them. The judge may consult with an administrative judge concerning any difficulties implementing these recommendations. (6) If the county court judge’s court attorney decides to report the district attorney’s alleged misconduct to the grievance committee, the county court judge must insulate the court attorney from all cases personally prosecuted by the district attorney. ....

Opinion 10-150 A judge who believes that he/she can be fair and impartial may preside when the court clerk testifies pursuant to subpoena about the defendant providing proof of compliance with a condition of the defendant’s sentence.

Opinion 10-43/10-44 ... (2) A judge whose court clerk is a named plaintiff in the town’s insurer’s lawsuit against criminal defendants whose cases are pending in the judge’s court need not disqualify him/herself from such cases as long as he/she can be impartial, but should insulate the court clerk from any involvement in the cases.

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Miscellaneous Court Personnel Activities and Relationships

Opinion 22-16 A judge need not disqualify from a custody case merely because the judge’s confidential secretary has connections to both parties through marriage, but must insulate the secretary from any involvement in the matter. If a party objects to the judge’s participation in the case, the judge has the sole discretion to decide whether to exercise recusal.

Opinion 21-181 A full-time judge may hire a fifth-degree relative as their secretary.

Opinion 20-124 A village judge must not consent to intrusions by the village police or the executive branch on the court’s independence.

Opinion 19-155 (1) A judge may, but is not required to, disclose his/her concerns to any appropriate authority, including the village police chief, about whether a newly appointed provisional village police officer has proper legal authority and credentials to carry a firearm. (2) A judge who concludes he/she is legally authorized or required as a firearms licensing officer to initiate an investigation into the propriety of the new officer’s possession of a pistol may take whatever steps he/she deems legally permitted or required in that capacity. (3) A judge who concludes he/she has a reasonable, good-faith basis to question the firearm authorization status of a police officer who has been designated to provide security in the judge’s courtroom may, but is not required to, meet with the village police chief concerning the issue. If the judge concludes the officer is not properly authorized, trained, and/or licensed to carry a firearm, he/she may take any lawful measures to ensure order and decorum in his/her courtroom, including, but not limited to, objecting to the officer’s placement in his/her courtroom and consulting with court administrators on how to proceed.

Opinion 17-120 (1) A judge whose court clerk sometimes serves as a foster parent by department of social services appointment generally may preside in cases involving the potential removal of a child. (2) The judge need not insulate the court clerk from such cases unless and until the judge becomes aware the court clerk is personally involved or is likely to have an interest in a specific disposition. (3) Where insulation is required, the judge must also make full disclosure. If any party who has appeared and not defaulted is appearing without counsel at the time of such disclosure, the judge must disqualify him/herself. Otherwise, the judge retains full discretion to preside after full disclosure, even if there is an objection. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 16-138 A judge who wishes to hire a new personal appointee law clerk may circulate the job notice through a bar association, specialized bar association committees, and attorneys who serve on those committees. The judge may also ask these attorneys to circulate the job notice within their law firms. There is no need for disqualification or disclosure merely because an attorney appearing before the judge, or his/her spouse, agrees to circulate a job notice for the judge.

Opinion 16-104 A village justice must prohibit the court clerk from attending the mayor’s regularly scheduled meetings with the village government’s department heads. [Note: Modified in part by Opinion 21-26.]

Opinion 15-132 A judge may hire his/her current law clerk’s spouse as the judge’s secretary, provided the spouse is qualified for such appointment.

 

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Conflicts - Judge's Relatives

Sub-Topics: Within First Degree (spouse, child, parent) | Second Degree (sibling, grandchild, grandparent) | Fourth Degree (first cousins) | Sixth Degree (second cousins) | Beyond Sixth Degree / Too Remote

The formula in the rules is "the judge or the judge's spouse, or a person known by the judge to be within the ___ degree of relationship to either of them, or the spouse of such a person."

See generally 22 NYCRR 100.0(C) ("The 'degree of relationship' is calculated according to the civil law system. That is, where the judge and the party are in the same line of descent, degree is ascertained by ascending or descending from the judge to the party, counting a degree for each person, including the party but excluding the judge....") 

 

Within First Degree (includes Spouse, Child, Parent)

See 22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1)(c)-(e).

Relative's Current or Former Counsel; Litigant-Relative's Current or Former Litigation Opponent (Party or Opposing Counsel) (1st Degree - spouse/child/parent)

This section collects opinions from 2009 and later addressing possible conflicts arising from (a) a first-degree relative's retention of counsel, whether in a litigated or transactional matter and (b) a first-degree relative's litigation opponents (in matters where the relative is a party). 

Opinion 21-48 (1) Where a judge’s spouse ceased employment with a law firm approximately five years ago and has subsequently appeared as opposing counsel to the spouse’s former law partner, the judge need not disqualify in unrelated proceedings involving the spouse’s former law partner or law firm, notwithstanding the partner’s threats to file a grievance or lawsuit against the judge’s spouse, unless and until (a) the grievance committee commences formal disciplinary proceedings against the judge’s spouse based on the partner’s complaint and/or (b) a formal adversarial legal proceeding is commenced concerning the dissolution of the financial or business relationship.

Opinion 21-41 A judge, whose spouse had brought a now-settled personal injury action on behalf of their minor child against a city municipality and its education agency must make full disclosure in cases where the municipality or any of its agencies is a party for two years from the date the court signs the settlement order. However, the judge need not disclose in mental hygiene hearings where a city hospital is represented exclusively by outside counsel.

Opinion 21-23 During the pendency of a proceeding brought by the judge on behalf of the judge’s minor child, the judge is disqualified (subject to remittal) from matters involving the adverse party or parties, and their counsel. Once the proceeding terminates, disclosure is required in lieu of outright disqualification for a period of two years for those same parties and attorneys. NOTE: Modified by Opinion 21-41, which partially overrules points 2 and 3 of the digest. Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 21-16(B) (1) A judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving an attorney who joined a highly publicized and controversial lawsuit challenging certain employment actions taken by the judge’s close relative. (2) The judge may preside in matters involving the attorney’s new colleagues at an unrelated government law office, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 20-148 Where a judge and their spouse are alleged victims with an order of protection against a criminal defendant, the judge may nonetheless preside over unrelated matters involving the prosecutors, defense counsel, and police or probation officers from that criminal case. The judge also need not disqualify merely because an attorney in the case called or cross-examined the judge or their spouse as witnesses.

Opinion 20-115 What are a judge’s obligations when he/she knows an attorney appearing before him/her is also representing the judge’s spouse and his/her sibling to probate their parent’s estate and handle related matters?

Opinion 20-100 Where a judge’s first-degree relative has retained litigation counsel and sued a hospital: (1) During the litigation, the judge (a) must make full disclosure when the hospital appears before him/her, but may thereafter preside as long as he/she can be fair and impartial and no party is appearing without counsel but (b) is disqualified, subject to remittal, in matters involving an attorney who is involved in representing the judge’s first-degree relative, either directly or in a supervisory capacity; (2) For two years after the matter terminates, the judge must make full disclosure when either the hospital or his/her relative’s former counsel appears before him/her, but may thereafter preside as long as he/she can be fair and impartial and no party is appearing without counsel; (3) After the two-year period, the judge may preside in matters involving his/her relative’s former litigation opponent and former counsel without disclosure, provided he/she can be fair and impartial. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 20-30 Where two attorneys representing the judge’s child in a civil matter are also the Public Defender and an assistant public defender: (1) During the representation, the judge (a) must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, from matters involving those two attorneys when they appear as public defenders either in the judge’s court or the centralized arraignment part but (b) may preside in other matters involving the public defender’s office, provided the assistant public defender(s) appearing before the judge have absolutely no involvement in representing the child. (2) Once the child’s representation completely ends, disclosure is mandated in lieu of outright disqualification for two years in matters involving the attorneys who represented the judge’s child. The judge must fully disclose the past representation, but thereafter has full discretion to determine if recusal is warranted, provided no party is appearing without counsel. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 19-104 Where a judge and his/her first-degree relative, as co-fiduciaries of a family trust, retain counsel to negotiate a contract for the trust: (1) During the representation, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, in all matters involving that attorney or his/her partners and associates. During this period, if any party is appearing without counsel, remittal is unavailable and the judge cannot preside. (2) For the first two years after the representation completely terminates, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, in all matters involving the individual attorney(s) who personally participated in the representation. For other partners and associates who did not personally assist in the representation, disclosure is mandated in lieu of outright disqualification during this period. Again, at this stage, if any party is appearing without counsel, the judge cannot preside. (3) After the two-year post-representation period, the judge’s continuing obligation to make a disclosure in matters involving the individual attorney(s) who personally participated in the representation depends on the particular facts and circumstances presented in each case. For other partners and associates who did not personally assist in the representation, the judge has no obligation to disclose or recuse. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 19-11 May a judge appoint an otherwise eligible attorney to a Part 36 appointment in a pending proceeding, where the attorney’s former representation of the judge’s first-degree relative completely terminated over a year ago?

Opinion 18-171 (1) Where a law firm is retained by a full-time judge’s first-degree relative to wind up the affairs of their former joint law practice at the conclusion of a highly confidential representation that directly affected both their interests as former law partners: (a) The judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, in all matters involving this law firm during the pendency of the representation. (b) For the first two years after the representation completely terminates and all fees are paid: (i) the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all matters involving attorneys who were personally involved in the representation and (ii) the judge must make full disclosure of the former representation when other attorneys from the law firm appear, in lieu of outright disqualification.

Opinion 18-32 A judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when an attorney who represents his/her first-degree relative in a tax certiorari matter appears before the judge. After the representation has concluded, the judge must disclose the relationship to all parties and their counsel for a two-year period. After the two-year period has elapsed, neither disclosure nor disqualification is required.

Opinion 17-76 A judge must disqualify him/herself in cases involving a law firm that is representing the judge's first-degree relative and former law partner in a disciplinary investigation of their joint IOLA account. Remittal is not available unless the judge can fully disclose the fact and nature of the representation, and how it affects the judge's interests, without violating his/her relative's right to confidentiality.

Opinion 17-03 (1) A judge who is disqualifying him/herself from cases involving New York City and its agencies due to his/her minor child's ongoing personal injury action against the city and its board of education may nonetheless preside in the following circumstances, assuming he/she can be fair and impartial:
(a) when a private law firm representing a defendant in the child's lawsuit appears before the judge in an unrelated matter, provided no party is appearing without counsel and the judge makes full disclosure on the record;
(b) in cases involving state public benefit corporations;
(c) in motions seeking to unseal records in possession of the District Attorney's Office, whether or not contested; and
(d) in a personal injury action against non-city defendants arising from an injury claimed to have occurred on a city street, notwithstanding that a separate action arising from the same injury, not pending before the judge, has been filed against the city.
(2) In a matter where parties have requested records from the city (or one of its agencies) as a non-party:
(a) if the non-party city agency does not appear or take a position in the matter, the judge may continue to preside;
(b) if the non-party city agency appears or opposes a motion to quash or motion to unseal, the judge must either transfer the motion to another judge or disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal; but
(c) if a party files a motion seeking to punish a non-party city agency for contempt, the judge is disqualified from the entire case, subject to remittal. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 15-95 What is a judge's ethical obligation when the judge's insurance company, which recently represented the interests of the judge or the judge's first degree relative in two civil actions, appears before the judge?

Opinion 15-88 May a judge preside when an attorney appearing in the judge's court is also representing the judge's child in an unrelated, contested matrimonial action?

Opinion 14-102 A judge may preside in matters involving an attorney who was initially appointed as Attorney for the Child in the judge’s relative’s custody proceeding, as the attorney’s involvement in the judge’s relative’s case was brief and preliminary in nature. The judge may also appoint the attorney to positions for which the attorney is eligible, provided that the judge does so impartially and on the basis of merit.

Opinion 14-60 (1) A judge whose first-degree relative has been arraigned on criminal charges is disqualified, subject to remittal, when a prosecutor who is personally involved in the criminal case appears before the judge. This obligation persists until entry of judgment. For two years after entry of judgment, disclosure is mandated in lieu of disqualification when a prosecutor who was personally involved in the trial phase appears before the judge on unrelated matters. If, after disclosure, a party objects to the judge presiding, the judge has discretion whether to recuse after considering all relevant factors. After the two-year period ends, the judge is not ethically required to disclose or recuse when these attorneys appear, provided he/she can be fair and impartial. (2) The judge need not disclose or recuse when other prosecutors from the same office appear before the judge, provided they are not personally involved in the criminal case against the judge’s relative and further provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial. This result does not change merely because the assistant district attorney appearing before the judge is subject to the supervision of a more senior prosecutor who is personally involved in prosecuting the judge’s first-degree relative. (3) The same principles apply at each stage of the criminal proceedings: the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, for all attorneys who are personally involved in that stage of the proceedings, until entry of judgment for that stage of the proceedings; and disclosure is mandatory for two years after entry of judgment when the attorneys involved in that phase appear before the judge.

Opinion 12-111 (1) A judge, whose parent has retained a private law firm to represent him/her as an executor in an estate proceeding, is disqualified from all matters in which the law firm appears until the estate proceeding is fully concluded. The disqualification is subject to remittal as set forth herein. (2) For two years after the estate proceeding is fully concluded, if all parties who have appeared and not defaulted are represented by counsel, the judge may preside over matters in which the law firm appears after making full disclosure of the prior representation. If any party is appearing pro se, or if the judge does not wish to make disclosure, the judge may not preside. (3) After the two-year period, neither disclosure nor disqualification is required. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.  In addition, Opinion 13-132 has modified this opinion "to reflect that disqualification does not extend to attorneys in the law firm who are not involved in representing" the judge's first-degree relative.

Opinion 11-139 (1) Where a public defender’s office represents a judge’s child, the judge need not disclose the representation every time an assistant public defender appears before the judge once the assistant public defender advises the judge that he/she does not represent the judge’s child and is not otherwise involved in the judge’s child’s representation. (2) A judge should not intervene in a Public Defender’s staffing decisions.

Opinion 11-95 For two years following resolution of criminal charges against a judge’s child, the judge must disclose the prior prosecution of his/her child when a prosecutor who was personally involved in the matter appears before the judge, but the judge may preside provided that all parties are represented by counsel and the judge can be fair and impartial. NOTE: Modified by Opinion 14-60 with respect to when the disqualification should end. Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 11-34 A Court of Claims judge whose close relative was injured in a collision with an official vehicle driven by a New York State Trooper must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, from other cases involving claims that a State Trooper drove his/her official vehicle in a negligent manner, beginning when the judge’s relative files a notice of claim and continuing for the duration of the judge’s close relative’s claim against the State of New York.

Opinion 10-168 A judge whose spouse has retained counsel and is considering making a claim against a municipality for personal injuries the judge witnessed (1) must disqualify him/herself from matters wherein the spouse's attorney appears until the judge’s spouse terminates the attorney-client relationship; and (2) need not exercise disqualification from matters in which the municipality is a party unless and until his/her spouse files the notice of claim, but must then exercise disqualification from such matters from the date of filing until the judge's spouse's matter against the municipality is concluded. Remittal is available as set forth in this opinion.

Opinion 10-99 What are a judge's obligations involving the attorney who represented the judge's ex-spouse against the judge in a family court matter, or the attorney’s partners and associates who were not involved in the ex-spouse’s representation, once the matter is concluded?

Opinion 10-21 What is a judge's obligation in matters involving the law firms which represented the judge's father in county court and on appeal?

Opinion 09-55 A judge must disqualify him/herself subject to remittal when an attorney who is representing the judge’s parent’s close corporation appears in the judge’s court. Once the representation ends, and for two years thereafter, the judge must disclose that the attorney represented his/her parent’s close corporation when the attorney or a member of the attorney’s firm appears in the judge’s court. If a party asks the judge to recuse him/herself, whether to do so is within the judge’s discretion.

Opinion 09-42 A judge need not disclose the relationship nor disqualify him/herself when an attorney, who merely drafted trust instruments on behalf of the judge's parents that name the judge as a co-trustee, more than four years earlier, appears before the judge.

 

Relative Is a Legislator or Heads Executive Branch (1st Degree - spouse/child/parent)

This section collects opinions from 2009 and later addressing possible conflicts when a first-degree relative holds public office in the legislative or executive branch as Mayor or Town Supervisor, or as village trustee, city or county legislator, or town board member.  Other public sector employment is covered in the next two sections, based on whether the judge's relative is or isn't an attorney.   

Opinion 21-101 (1) A town justice whose spouse is the mayor of a village within the town (a) is disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, in matters where the judge's spouse is expected to testify or is a named party, and (b) is disqualified, subject to remittal, in matters where the village is a named party, but (c) need not otherwise recuse from cases where the judge's spouse has no personal involvement, merely because village employees will appear. (2) Where the judge's spouse, as village mayor, serves ex officio on a body of commissioners for the village police department, but is not the head of the department and has no day-to-day administrative, supervisory or law enforcement responsibilities, the judge need not recuse from cases involving the village police department due solely to the judge's spouse's formal status as a police commissioner.

Opinion 19-92 (1) Where a judge’s first-degree relative is a city’s mayor: (a) The judge is disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, if his/her first-degree relative is a party to the proceeding or is likely to appear in the courtroom as a witness; (b) The judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, in matters where the city is a named party; (c) Disqualification is not otherwise required merely because the city or a city department is an interested party, or city employees may be called as witnesses, or the city’s corporation counsel is prosecuting violations pursuant to authority delegated by the District Attorney, provided the judge’s relative has no personal involvement in the case, and absent any additional factors that would create an appearance of impropriety.

Opinion 18-12 (1) A judge whose spouse is a county legislator is disqualified from cases where the spouse or county legislature is a named party. (2) If the judge’s spouse has no personal involvement in the case before him/her and the judge can be fair and impartial, and absent additional factors creating an appearance of impropriety, the judge may otherwise preside in: (a) matters challenging a county law, ordinance or code provision, even if his/her spouse strongly supported or opposed the law as a legislator; (b) county-related matters over which his/her legislator spouse exercised some quantum of oversight or expressed criticism or praise; and (c) matters involving county departments, entities, or employees.

Opinion 17-118 May a town justice continue presiding over (a) civil cases where the town is a party and (b) violations prosecuted by the town attorney pursuant to authority delegated by the District Attorney, when a person the judge has treated as a first-degree relative becomes town supervisor?

Opinion 17-113 May a judge continue to serve as an acting village justice if his/her spouse is elected as a village trustee?

Opinion 14-111 A town justice whose spouse is a village trustee may preside over arraignments for the village court when the village justice and acting village justice are unavailable, and need not disclose the relationship or offer to disqualify him/herself solely on this basis.

Opinion 13-170 Is it permissible for a full-time city court judge to preside over all aspects of the civil part of the court in light of his/her spouse's recent election to the city council?

 

Non-Attorney Relative's Employer (1st Degree - spouse/child/parent)

This section collects opinions from 2009 and later addressing possible conflicts arising from a non-attorney first-degree relative's employment, whether public sector or private sector.  However, if the relative is a legislator or heads the executive branch, see above.   

Opinion 21-15 (1) A judge whose first-degree relative heads a law enforcement agency must disqualify from all matters involving the agency, including matters where the judge concludes the agency or its personnel have been or will likely be involved. Remittal is not permitted. (2) While the judge need not undertake an active inquiry or other extraordinary measures in every criminal matter, the judge must adopt reasonable procedures to avoid presiding over matters involving the agency, such as making reasonable inquiry if the judge suspects the agency was or may become involved in a particular matter.

Opinion 20-68 A town justice may preside in matters involving the public defender’s office where his/her spouse works as an eligibility investigator, provided he/she discloses his/her spouse’s employment.

Opinion 20-36 A judge need not disqualify him/herself from issuing a decision in a small claims matter merely because his/her first-degree relative, a non-lawyer, independently applied for employment with the sole law firm that appeared at the small claims hearing.

Opinion 20-19 What are a judge’s obligations in matters involving a social services agency that employs his/her first-degree relative in a non-supervisory, entry-level position?

Opinion 19-162 A judge whose spouse is a forest ranger with law enforcement responsibilities: (1) is disqualified from cases involving tickets issued by his/her spouse or based on work done by the judge’s spouse; (2) may attend his/her spouse’s professional awards ceremony.

Opinion 19-157 (1) May a judge preside in county court over matters involving the county sheriff’s office, where his/her spouse serves as a non-supervisory road deputy? (2) What are a judge’s ethical obligations in newly filed DSS matters, when the judge formerly served as a senior supervisory attorney with the department of social services with oversight of all DSS cases?

Opinion 19-89 (1) If a town judge’s first-degree relative becomes town police chief, the judge is disqualified from all cases involving the town police department. This disqualification is not subject to remittal, and Opinion 16-160 is accordingly modified in that respect as of January 1, 2020. (2) If the judge’s first-degree relative becomes captain of the town police’s detective division, the judge is disqualified in matters in which the detective division is involved. This disqualification is subject to remittal after full disclosure on the record, provided the judge’s relative will not be physically present in the courtroom and no party is appearing without counsel. (3) The judge may appoint counsel where legally authorized and appropriate but not for the sole purpose of facilitating remittal of the judge’s disqualification. The judge may provide forms to expedite the disclosure/remittal process, provided there is full disclosure of the basis for disqualification, consent by all of the parties and their attorneys, and both disclosure and remittal must be incorporated into the record. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 19-58 A judge, whose spouse is a principal clerk in the District Attorney's office, may not preside in matters involving that office unless the judge (a) can be fair and impartial and (b) discloses his/her spouse's employment relationship. Because disclosure is required in lieu of outright disqualification, the judge must disqualify him/herself if any party is appearing without counsel in the matter. Otherwise, the judge has full discretion to preside after disclosure, even if a party objects. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 19-51 A judge is disqualified from Vehicle and Traffic Law matters in which the judge’s first-degree relative is the issuing police officer of a traffic infraction, and remittal is unavailable.

Opinion 18-181 A village justice whose spouse is a member of the zoning board of appeals may preside in village code enforcement matters even if the defendant has sought or will seek a zoning variance, as long as (1) the zoning board of appeals is not a party to the proceeding and (2) its members are not likely to be called as witnesses.

Opinion 18-30 A judge whose first-degree relative is a part-time dispatcher with the sheriff’s department: (1) is not automatically disqualified from presiding over cases involving the sheriff’s department and need not affirmatively ask if his/her relative served as dispatcher; (2) should instruct the relative to advise the judge if he/she is likely to become a witness or otherwise appear in the judge’s court but otherwise discourage any discussion of the relative’s work as a dispatcher; and (3) is disqualified from a case, without the possibility of remittal, if he/she learns the relative was the dispatcher on the case and could be called as a witness.

Opinion 18-06 May a judge preside in matters involving the District Attorney’s Office where his/her domestic partner is employed as a confidential secretary and office administrator?

Opinion 17-178 May a town justice whose spouse holds a strictly administrative position as Captain of Staff Services for the local police department preside in matters involving local police?

Opinion 17-126 A judge may continue to preside in a declaratory judgment action, even after learning that his/her spouse's employer, a non-party with no involvement in the subject matter of the dispute, made political contributions to a named respondent, provided the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial. The judge need not make any disclosure.

Opinion 17-119 May a judge preside in Department of Social Services matters if his/her first-degree relative is hired as a paralegal or legal clerk by the County Attorney's office?

Opinion 17-97 Where a housing court judge's first-degree relative is president of a real estate management company, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, in all cases involving the company's outside counsel.

Opinion 17-75 A judge whose non-attorney spouse is employed by a local public authority may preside in matters where a part-time employee of the same public authority, in his/her capacity as a private attorney, appears on behalf of criminal defendants or other private clients. The judge need not disclose that the attorney also works part-time for the same public authority that employs the judge's spouse.

Opinion 16-160  A part-time judge whose first-degree relative is the police chief for the municipality where the judge presides is disqualified in any matter involving the municipal police department or its officers, subject to remittal where appropriate. [Note: Modified by Opinion 19-89, which COMPLETELY FORBIDS remittal.]

Opinion 16-74 A judge whose first-degree relative works for a local hospital may preside over cases in which a party calls witnesses, subpoenas records, or presents exhibits from the hospital which employs the judge’s first-degree relative, provided the relative has had no personal involvement in the matter. Similarly, neither disclosure nor disqualification is required merely because a case involves foster children who have been, or will be, treated in another unit of the hospital that employs the judge’s relative.

Opinion 16-67 A judge whose first-degree relative heads the local probation department is disqualified from matters where the department’s employees appear, subject to remittal.

Opinion 16-44 A judge may preside in cases of a global insurance company employing his/her non-lawyer spouse in a mid-level position with no litigation responsibilities, unless the spouse is personally involved in the matter.

Opinion 16-28 A Family Court judge whose first-degree relative has a part-time entry-level job with an agency where the county department of social services may place a child (1) is disqualified, subject to remittal, from any cases in which the judge’s relative has been personally involved but (2) has no obligation with respect to other cases involving children placed at the same agency. If the judge is satisfied that the agency has an effective procedure in place to insulate the judge’s relative from any cases that may come before the judge, the judge may rely on that insulation and preside in cases involving the agency without any obligation to disclose the employment relationship or inquire about the judge’s relative’s possible involvement in the case.

Opinion 16-03 A judge need not disclose their relationship or disqualify him/herself in cases involving the state police where his/her spouse is a statewide information security officer for the state police and internally advises that agency on technology issues.

Opinion 15-159 A town justice may consent to the appointment of his/her first-degree relative as town court clerk and permit his/her relative to continue full-time clerical employment with a private law firm that appears in the court twice a year, provided the town justice disqualifies him/herself from all matters involving the relative’s law firm employer.

Opinion 15-39 A judge who knows that the probation department is likely to refer defendants who are convicted of crimes involving domestic violence charges to a program run by the judge’s social worker spouse is disqualified, subject to remittal, from presiding in criminal matters involving domestic violence charges.

Opinion 15-06 A town or village justice whose first-degree relative is a social worker without supervisory responsibilities in the local probation department’s domestic violence division (1) is disqualified, subject to remittal where available, from all cases in which his/her relative is personally involved, but (2) need not disclose the familial relationship in other matters involving the probation department and/or allegations of domestic violence, provided that his/her relative is not personally involved in the matter.

Opinion 15-05 A judge need not disclose that his/her spouse works for a municipal councilperson as an administrative assistant even though the spouse schedules constituent appointments with a pro bono attorney who provides assistance and advice to litigants who appear in the judge’s court.

Opinion 14-166 May a judge preside over an arraignment in which his/her first-degree relative by blood or marriage was the arresting officer?  May a judge issue a search warrant where his/her first-degree relative by blood or marriage signed the supporting affidavit?

Opinion 14-155 What are a judge's ethical obligations should the judge's spouse accept employment of a clerical/administrative nature with a local attorney who frequently appears before the judge as a criminal defense attorney?

Opinion 14-118 Is a judge ethically required to grant defense counsel’s motion for disqualification in a criminal matter, which the District Attorney’s office prosecutes, solely because the judge’s spouse is the District Attorney’s personal secretary, given the judge's spouse's "limited role" as secretary and "his/her lack of involvement in any criminal matters"?

Opinion 14-64  An appellate judge whose first-degree relative is a law enforcement officer with supervisory responsibilities within the jurisdiction of the judge’s court may preside over cases in which the law enforcement agency appears, provided that he/she can be fair and impartial, and the judge need not investigate whether any officer involved in an arrest was the relative’s subordinate. If the judge becomes aware that an officer involved in the case reports to the judge’s relative, the judge should exercise his/her discretion in determining whether disqualification is required in the specific case before him/her.

Opinion 14-59 A judge need not disclose that his/her minor children work part-time as babysitters for the children of an attorney who appears in the judge's court and need not disqualify him/herself when the attorney appears.

Opinion 14-42 What is a judge’s ethical obligation when a local Medical Center, which employs a member of the judge’s family who resides in the judge’s household, appears before the judge?

Opinion 13-108 A judge whose spouse is a supervisor in the county probation department may preside over criminal matters in which the department participates, except that the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when probation officers under the direct supervision of the judge’s spouse participate in a matter.

Opinion 13-65 (1) Must a judge disqualify him/herself from all cases involving the [County] Sheriff's Office because the judge’s spouse is a Sergeant with the [County] Sheriff's Office Road Patrol? (2) Must a judge disqualify him/herself from certain "dangerous dog" cases and "civil cases involving damage from dogs" as a result of the judge’s outside employment with a health department's rabies prevention and treatment program?

Opinion 12-163 A support magistrate whose spouse is employed by the local Department of Social Services in a high level, purely administrative capacity may continue to preside over matters in which the Department of Social Services appears, where the Commissioner has provided written assurance that the support magistrate's spouse will be completely insulated from Family Court matters.

Opinion 12-105 A judge must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, when the manufactured home park that employs the judge's child appears in the judge's court as a party.

Opinion 12-42 Where the judge's spouse is employed as the confidential secretary to the Public Defender, what are the judge's obligations when a party is represented by the Office of the Public Defender?

Opinion 11-149 A Family Court judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from any PINS petition filed by or on behalf of a high school where the principal is the judge’s personal friend and the judge’s spouse is a teacher.

Opinion 11-47 The choice of surname(s) by a judge and his/her spouse is primarily a personal or legal matter which is not governed by the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct even if the judge’s spouse is a law enforcement officer. Additionally, so long as a judge does not preside over any matters involving his/her law enforcement officer/spouse or officers under the spouse’s supervision, the judge need not disclose the relationship or disqualify him/herself in criminal matters.

Opinion 10-124 (2) A judge whose spouse is an instructor for a defensive driving program may not refer defendants to the program unless the judge’s spouse will not be the instructor for any defendants the judge refers to the program but must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, in any case where the judge’s spouse testifies as a witness concerning a defendant’s participation in a defensive driving program that employs the judge’s spouse.

Opinion 10-123 A village justice need not disqualify him/herself when a law firm that employs the village justice court clerk’s non-lawyer child as a paralegal appears in the judge’s court, but the judge should insulate the court clerk from any matter in which the firm is involved.

Opinion 10-112 (1) A problem solving court judge who does not initially refer defendants to a service provider that works with defendants who appear in the judge’s court, must disqualify him/herself from a proceeding involving a service provider that employs the judge’s spouse as an administrator when that service provider will appear or is otherwise involved in a proceeding involving a defendant’s failure to comply with the prescribed treatment program and must transfer the case to another judge.

Opinion 10-23 A judge whose spouse is the confidential secretary to the sheriff may preside over cases involving the sheriff's department, as long as the judge can be impartial and discloses his/her spouse’s employment relationship.

Opinion 09-242 A Judge whose first degree relative is in charge of the road patrol division of the county sheriff’s department, for the same county where the judge presides, must disqualify him/herself in all sheriff’s department cases in which the relative is involved or appears and in any proceeding where officers who are subject to the relative’s supervision appear. While this disqualification is subject to remittal, except where a party appears without counsel or if a matter is before the judge ex parte, the judge should seriously consider recusal where his/her first degree relative holds such a high ranking supervisory law enforcement position. [NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.]

 

Attorney Relative's Employer or Practice of Law (1st Degree - spouse/child/parent)

This section collects opinions from 2009 and later addressing possible conflicts arising from a first-degree relative's engagement in the practice of law.  However, if the relative is a legislator or heads the executive branch, see above.   

Opinion 22-27 May a judge preside in a matter involving their spouse's former client?

Opinion 22-23 Where a judge's first-degree relative is an entry-level staff attorney with a not-for-profit legal services provider, in a division or unit that has absolutely no involvement in the kinds of matters that come before the judge's court, the judge may preside in matters involving other attorneys of the same legal services provider. Neither disclosure nor disqualification is required, as long as the judge is satisfied their relative has had, and is likely to have, absolutely no involvement with the case.

Opinion 21-125 May a judge whose spouse is the local Conflict Defender preside over matters involving their spouse’s subordinates?

Opinion 21-48 (1) Where a judge’s spouse ceased employment with a law firm approximately five years ago and has subsequently appeared as opposing counsel to the spouse’s former law partner, the judge need not disqualify in unrelated proceedings involving the spouse’s former law partner or law firm, notwithstanding the partner’s threats to file a grievance or lawsuit against the judge’s spouse, unless and until (a) the grievance committee commences formal disciplinary proceedings against the judge’s spouse based on the partner’s complaint and/or (b) a formal adversarial legal proceeding is commenced concerning the dissolution of the financial or business relationship. 

Opinion 21-14 Where the judge’s spouse’s law firm has no involvement whatsoever in the case before the judge and will not share in the legal fees, the judge is not disqualified merely because the judge is aware that one of the litigants is also a current or former client of the judge’s spouse’s law firm in other matters. The judge may, in their discretion, disclose the relationship without incurring any obligation to disqualify.

Opinion 20-211 Where a judge’s spouse supervises assistant county attorneys in family court neglect and abuse cases, and a criminal case before the judge has material and relevant connections to a family court neglect and abuse case: (a) if the judge’s spouse is either directly involved or supervising assistant county attorneys in the “related” case, the judge must disclose the connection and their spouse’s role, but need not disqualify unless a party is appearing without counsel; and (b) if the judge is satisfied that their spouse has no supervisory or direct involvement in the “related” family court case, the judge may preside without disclosure.  NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 20-126 A judge must make inquiries concerning their spouse’s ongoing business arrangements with local attorneys and determine if disqualification or disclosure is necessary. The appropriate frequency for inquiring is a fact-specific determination to be made by the judge based on their own assessment of the overall circumstances.

Opinion 20-56 Where a judge’s first-degree attorney relative works for the private law office of an ADA who appears in the judge’s court, the judge (1) need not disclose or disqualify when the ADA appears as an ADA but (2) is otherwise disqualified, subject to remittal, whenever attorneys from the ADA’s private practice appear before him/her.

Opinion 20-21 Must a judge disclose that his/her spouse is a non-supervisory assistant district attorney when other attorneys from that office appear on criminal matters?

Opinion 19-154 A judge who has a remittable conflict with the entire public defender’s office and whose first-degree relative and law partner are also assistant public defenders in that office: (1) may arraign indigent defendants from other local courts in the centralized arraignment part, provided they are represented by the conflict defender or assigned counsel at arraignment and the public defender’s office has not previously represented them in the matter; (2) is disqualified in cases transferred from the centralized arraignment part where the public defender’s office represented the defendant, but the disqualification is subject to remittal after full disclosure on the record unless the judge’s first-degree relative or law partner handled the arraignment; and (3) is disqualified from arraigning a defendant on a bench warrant issued by another local judge if the public defender’s office represents the defendant in the underlying matter, but the disqualification is subject to remittal after full disclosure on the record unless the judge’s first-degree relative or law partner is involved in the underlying matter.

Opinion 19-148(A) Where a judge previously served as a non-supervisory assistant county attorney and his/her spouse continues to serve in such capacity:
(1) Judge’s Own Cases. The judge is permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, from all cases in which he/she participated in any way as an attorney.
(2) Spouse’s Cases. The judge is disqualified from all cases involving his/her spouse, and remittal is not permitted unless all specified conditions are strictly met.
(3) Related Cases. If the judge believes the family offense, neglect/abuse, or JD/PINS charges he/she handled as an ACA are materially relevant to the matter currently before him/her, then he/she must fully disclose the connection between the two cases. Because disclosure is mandated in lieu of disqualification, the judge is disqualified if any party is appearing without counsel. Otherwise, assuming the judge can be fair and impartial, he/she retains full discretion as to whether to preside, even if a party objects.
(4) Other, Unrelated Cases. The judge may otherwise immediately preside in other cases involving the county attorney’s office, including those (a) prosecuted by his/her former public sector colleagues and supervisors; (b) involving respondents or other individuals who appeared in family offense, neglect/abuse, or JD/PINS matters the judge handled, provided the judge can be fair and impartial; and (c) involving an individual who is or was a respondent in family court in a matter handled by the judge’s spouse. Neither disclosure nor disqualification is required, and there is no waiting period.
(5) Investigations. The judge may preside in matters involving individuals who were merely “under investigation” for possible future family offense or neglect/abuse matters during the judge’s tenure as ACA, provided (i) neither the judge nor his/her spouse had any involvement whatsoever and (ii) the judge can be fair and impartial.
(6) Pistol Permits. With respect to individuals who were respondents in administrative pistol permit proceedings handled by the judge, the judge is disqualified if he/she has personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts in the proceeding before him/her. If the pistol permit itself is a factor in the city court matter, the judge must disqualify. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 19-150 (1) Where a city court judge’s spouse supervises the public defender’s family court division and only assumes the public defender’s administrative responsibilities on an occasional, short-term basis, the judge: (a) may preside in criminal cases where the public defender’s office represents the defendant, provided there is no related family court proceeding, the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial, and the judge’s spouse is not involved in the case; and (b) is disqualified where the public defender’s office is handling both the city court criminal case and a related family court proceeding, but may permit remittal of disqualification if his/her spouse will not personally appear in the courtroom. (2) If the public defender becomes unavailable on a long-term, indefinite basis, such that the public will reasonably perceive the judge’s spouse as the acting or de facto public defender, the judge is disqualified from all public defender matters. The disqualification is again subject to remittal only if the judge’s spouse will not personally appear in the courtroom.

Opinion 19-13 (3) Where a judge’s own spouse works for a government law office and that office is involved in a case before the judge: (a) in all matters where the judge’s government attorney spouse personally appears in the courtroom, the judge is disqualified, without the possibility of remittal; (b) in all matters where the judge’s government attorney spouse is involved behind the scenes but is not present in the courtroom, the judge is disqualified, but the disqualification is subject to remittal as long as no party is appearing without counsel; and (c) in other matters involving the government law office, if the judge is satisfied that his/her spouse has absolutely no involvement in the matter and is not the attorney of record, the judge may preside. (4) A judge who, along with his/her spouse, previously worked for a government law office in a non-supervisory capacity may preside in cases where neither the judge nor his/her spouse had any personal involvement and in which neither was the attorney of record. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 18-175 May a town justice whose spouse is an ADA in the same county preside in criminal matters, where the District Attorney’s office has assigned other ADAs to appear in the town court?

Opinion 18-33 May a judge preside over matters involving attorneys who work for the same not-for-profit legal services firm as the judge’s spouse?

Opinion 17-180 Must a town justice whose law practice has absolutely no affiliation with the law practice of his/her first-degree relative (parent or child) prohibit the relative from appearing before other judges in the same court?

Opinion 17-41 A judge whose first-degree relative has been hired as a law advisor to the local police department on matters unrelated to criminal investigations and prosecutions may preside in cases involving the police, provided the judge can be fair and impartial and his/her relative is not involved in the case.

Opinion 16-130 Where a judge’s spouse, as director of government relations, helps select a law firm to handle lobbying and works directly with the law firm’s lobbyists, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving that law firm. The obligation lasts for the duration of the attorney-client relationship between the spouse’s employer and the law firm, but terminates when the relationship ends.

Opinion 16-111 May a judge preside in matters involving a law firm that has temporarily hired the judge's child for the purpose of studying law?

Opinion 16-31  A judge need not disclose that his/her attorney spouse is currently litigating an unrelated action in another court, as opposing counsel to one of the attorneys appearing before the judge.

Opinion 15-96 (1) The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not prohibit a judge from receiving, as part of an equitable distribution, a percentage of the future legal fees earned by his/her former spouse upon the settlement or verdict of any cases deemed part of the former spouse's law practice. (2) When the opposing counsel, from one of the cases which may be subject to the ongoing equitable distribution, appears before the judge in an unrelated matter, the judge may preside after making full disclosure.

Opinion 15-164 A judge whose first-degree relative is a part-time attorney for the county department of social services may preside in criminal cases alleging welfare fraud where the agency is the victim or complainant, provided this relative has no involvement in the case.

Opinion 15-150 A judge whose first-degree relative is a staff attorney for an insurance company is not required to disclose this fact or disqualify him/herself when that company appears before the judge as a party or as a carrier of a party, provided the judge’s relative is a non-supervisory employee with no role in the case.

Opinion 15-33 A judge need not disqualify him/herself or disclose the spousal relationship (1) when the judge’s spouse’s former law firm appears before the judge on matters in which the spouse had no involvement, even though the law firm maintains a fee interest in eight other matters handled by the spouse, or (2) when attorneys to whom the judge’s spouse has referred occasional, discrete cases, or from whom the judge’s spouse has received such cases, appear in the judge’s court.

Opinion 14-116 An Appellate Division judge need not disclose that his/her spouse serves on the Committee on Character and Fitness in the judicial department in which the judge presides. However, the judge may not participate on any panel of judges assigned to consider an individual application for admission if the judge’s spouse was involved in reviewing the application.

Opinion 13-186 May a judge preside in matters involving an attorney whose child practices law in association with the judge's child?

Opinion 13-104 What are a judge’s ethical obligations when attorneys from the law firm of the judge’s law clerk's relative's spouse appear before the judge?

Opinion 12-75 Provided that the judge can remain fair and impartial, and absent any other factor requiring disqualification, a trial court judge may preside in a matter that involves legal issues similar to those the judge's attorney spouse is litigating before other judges in unrelated matters.

Opinion 12-36 (1) While child support obligations continue between a judge and his/her ex-spouse, who is a local prosecutor, the judge is disqualified when either the ex-spouse or other attorneys subject to the judge's ex-spouse's supervision appear before the judge. Disqualification during this period is subject to remittal unless a party appears without counsel. (2) (a) After the financial obligations between the ex-spouses are discharged, the judge must disclose the former marital relationship when his/her ex-spouse appears before him/her, but need not make any disclosure when other prosecutors subject to the ex-spouse's supervision appear before the judge. (b) During this period, the judge must disqualify him/herself from a matter in which the judge's ex-spouse appears if any party is self-represented. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 11-131 May a judge preside in criminal matters prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office, in light of the judge’s child’s recent employment as an assistant district attorney?

Opinion 11-106(A) May a judge preside over certain cases if the judge’s child is appointed to the position of part-time county attorney, in the event that outside counsel is hired to represent the county’s legal interests?

Opinion 11-106 May a judge preside over certain Family Court cases if the judge’s child is appointed to the position of part-time county attorney?

Opinion 11-103 A judge need not recuse at the request of an attorney whose adversary in an unrelated “very litigious case” is the judge’s attorney spouse, unless the judge cannot remain fair and impartial or has a personal bias against the attorney.

Opinion 11-94 After a judge’s child’s employment with a law firm as a summer student associate ends, the judge must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, when the law firm appears, if the judge’s child was involved in the case. In all other cases in which the law firm appears, the judge need not disqualify him/herself or disclose his/her child’s former association with the law firm as a summer student associate.

Opinion 11-57 A judge who presides in county court and whose spouse is a special prosecutor in a town court, subject to the district attorney’s supervision, is not disqualified from matters involving the district attorney’s office or matters originating in the town court, as long as the judge’s spouse has not participated in the matter.

Opinion 11-43 A Surrogate whose spouse is a partner in a law firm that frequently appears in the Surrogate’s Court (1) must disqualify him/herself from presiding when a partner or associate of the spouse’s law firm appears except in very limited circumstances and (2) may not appoint his/her spouse’s partners or associates to serve as fiduciaries except in very limited circumstances.

Opinion 10-192 (1) A judge whose caseload consists mostly of matters in no-fault insurance cases involving small monetary values need not disqualify him/herself from cases in which a law firm that employs his/her child and serves exclusively as in-house counsel for an insurance company appears, as long as the judge’s child had no direct or indirect involvement in the particular case, but must disclose his/her child’s employment and thereafter has the discretion to grant or deny a party’s request for his/her recusal. (2) Given the facts presented, a judge, whose caseload consists mostly of matters in no-fault insurance cases involving small monetary values is not required to disqualify him/herself from such cases when a law firm that also serves exclusively as in-house counsel for the same insurance company, but does not employ the judge’s child, appears.

Opinion 10-05 May a judge hear certain cases involving the County Attorney’s Office in the same county in which the judge's spouse was recently appointed County Attorney?

Opinion 09-220 Where a judge's first-degree relative (their child's spouse) is assigned to the intake bureau of the District Attorney's office, may the judge hear an appeal arising from that office?

Opinion 09-145 A judge’s relationship to an assistant district attorney [4th degree - first cousin's spouse] does not require recusal where the judge’s only functions regarding the grand jury proceedings are ministerial in nature.

Opinion 09-04 A judge whose child is a law intern for the summer with a local law office must disclose his/her child’s position whenever an attorney from the law office appears in the judge’s court. The judge then must determine whether his/her child has had any involvement in the particular matter before the court. If so, the judge must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal. If not, the judge may preside in the matter if he/she can be fair and impartial.


Relative's Tenants, Non-Legal Clients, Customers or Business Partners (1st Degree - spouse/child/parent)

This section collects opinions from 2009 and later addressing possible conflicts arising from a first-degree relative's business activities, including landlord/tenant relationships.  A first-degree attorney relative's legal clients are included in the previous section, above.  

Opinion 15-80 Provided the judge can be fair and impartial, a judge may continue to preside in a case after learning the parties have engaged in occasional, discrete business transactions with the judge’s parents’ manufacturing corporation in matters entirely unrelated to the case, and the judge need not make any disclosure.

Opinion 15-40 May a judge whose spouse is the director of the regional chamber of commerce preside when an entity before the judge is a member of the chamber of commerce?

Opinion 13-46 A judge is not disqualified from presiding over a matter wherein the county is a party, solely because the county is a tenant of a judge’s first-degree relative, provided the case does not involve matters directly pertaining to the tenancy or the landlord-tenant relationship.

Opinion 13-24 (1) A judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when commercial tenants of the judge’s children or stepchildren appear before the judge as attorneys or parties, but not when they appear as witnesses. (2) A judge is not disqualified from presiding over matters in which account-holders at the judge’s spouse’s bank or financial services company appear before the judge. (3) If a judge knows that an attorney, party or witness appearing before the judge has significant business dealings with the judge’s spouse’s bank, the judge must consider all the circumstances and thereafter must decide, in his/her discretion, whether to disclose or recuse. (4) A judge is not disqualified from presiding over matters involving not-for-profit entities that have received charitable gifts from the judge’s spouse or the spouse’s businesses.

 

Relative's Political Activity, Political Supporters or Political Opponents (1st Degree - spouse/child/parent)

This section collects opinions from 2009 and later addressing possible conflicts arising from an attorney first-degree relative's employment and/or practice of law.  However, if the relative is a legislator or heads the executive branch, see above.   

Opinion 17-126 A judge may continue to preside in a declaratory judgment action, even after learning that his/her spouse's employer, a non-party with no involvement in the subject matter of the dispute, made political contributions to a named respondent, provided the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial. The judge need not make any disclosure.

Opinion 15-212 A judge need not disqualify him/herself from cases involving lawyers who sought to contribute to the judge’s spouse’s recent political campaign, provided the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 15-206 A judge is not disqualified when an attorney who is the judge’s child’s election opponent appears before him/her, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

 

Miscellaneous (1st Degree - spouse/child/parent)

Opinion 20-189 May a town justice continue to serve in that role if their first-degree relative runs for and is elected to the co-judge position in the same court?

Opinion 20-120 May a town justice continue to serve on the town court if their first-degree relative assumes the other town justice position?

Opinion 20-25 A judge’s child’s status as a crime victim, and the judge’s status as witness to the alleged crime, do not raise reasonable questions about the judge’s impartiality in matters involving the attorneys prosecuting and defending the accused. Thus, provided the judge can be fair and impartial, he/she may preside in unrelated matters involving these attorneys, even if defense counsel cross-examines the judge and his/her child.

Opinion 17-143 Where a judge co-owns real property with an attorney: (4) Transfer of the judge's interest to his/her spouse or close family member slightly diminishes, but does not end, the judge's obligations: The judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when the attorney co-owner appears before the judge as an attorney or a party, but not when he/she appears as a witness. (5) Transfer of the judge's interest to a third party who is not a member of the judge's family constitutes divestment of the judge's interest. Thus, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, whenever the former co-owner appears for two years from the date the former co-ownership relationship completely terminates, meaning after the sale is complete and final payment has been made. After the two-year period, the judge has no further obligation.

Opinion 15-163 A judge who learns an attorney appearing before him/her made a charitable donation to honor the judge’s deceased relative, as suggested by the relative’s published obituary, has no duty to disclose the donation or recuse him/herself in the matter, where the obituary did not mention the judge’s judicial status and neither the judge nor his/her family used or circulated the obituary to solicit funds.

Opinion 15-35/15-75 The fact that a judge’s first-degree relative was killed by a driver who was charged with driving under the influence, or that a judge him/herself was previously a victim of domestic violence, does not, by itself, require disqualification of the judge in cases involving persons charged with the same statutory offenses that caused injury to the judge or the judge’s first-degree relative, provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 14-116 An Appellate Division judge need not disclose that his/her spouse serves on the Committee on Character and Fitness in the judicial department in which the judge presides. However, the judge may not participate on any panel of judges assigned to consider an individual application for admission if the judge’s spouse was involved in reviewing the application.

Opinion 13-172 May a judge preside in matters involving an attorney who is the spouse of a broker that their spouse has engaged to sell the spouse's parent’s home?

Opinion 12-102 A judge, disqualified from hearing a matter because one party is a first-degree relative of the judge, need not inform his/her co-judge of this relationship and should not make any unnecessary, voluntary disclosure of the relationship while the litigation is pending. 

 

Within Second Degree (includes Siblings, Grandparents, Grandchildren)

See 22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1)(d)-(e); Opinion 06-111 (second degree is "a more intimate and significant family connection").

Relative's Current or Former Counsel; Relative's Current or Former Litigation Opponent (Party or Opposing Counsel); Attorneys who Prosecuted or Defended Relative in Criminal Case

Opinion 20-52 May a judge, who is one of several beneficiaries of a deceased relative’s estate, preside in matters involving a lawyer who is representing the judge’s sibling as executor?

Opinion 17-67 A judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all matters involving an attorney who was hired by the judge's second-degree relative to pursue litigation concerning real property in which the judge has an interest. This obligation continues for two years after the representation completely terminates. 

Opinion 16-123 A judge must continue to disclose that prosecutors presently appearing before the judge were personally involved in a proceeding involving the judge’s second-degree relative’s criminal conviction for a two-year period after entry of judgment on that proceeding notwithstanding the relative’s death. If, after disclosure, a party objects to the judge presiding, the judge has discretion whether or not recusal is warranted. The judge need not disclose that his/her relative died but if this fact is disclosed, the cause of death need not be.

Opinion 16-66 Under the circumstances presented, when an attorney appearing before the judge had previously represented the judge’s grandchild’s parent and now has an outstanding judgment for unpaid legal fees, (1) the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, until the judgment is satisfied or vacated; (2) for two years thereafter, the judge must disclose the attorney’s former representation; and (3) thereafter, the judge has no further obligation, provided he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 16-57 A judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving an attorney who has filed employment discrimination charges against the judge’s second-degree relative. The judge may preside in matters involving other attorneys from the same office, provided he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 14-51 (1) For two years after entry of judgment in the trial phase of a judge’s second-degree relative’s criminal proceedings, provided the judge determines he/she can be fair and impartial, disclosure is mandated in lieu of disqualification when any prosecutor or defender who was personally involved at the trial phase appears before the judge on unrelated matters. If, after disclosure, a party objects to the judge presiding, the judge has discretion whether to recuse after considering all relevant factors. After the two-year period ends, the judge is not ethically required to disclose or recuse when these attorneys appear, provided he/she can be fair and impartial. (2) The judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when an attorney who is personally involved in handling the judge’s relative’s appeal of the conviction appears, until entry of judgment on the appeal. For two years after entry of judgment on the appeal, disclosure is mandated in lieu of disqualification for the specific attorneys involved. After the two-year period, the judge has no further obligation, provided he/she can be fair and impartial. (3) The judge need not disclose or recuse when the assistant public defender who was initially appointed to represent the judge’s relative on appeal appears, as the attorney’s involvement in the judge’s relative’s case was brief and preliminary in nature.

Opinion 14-51 (1) For two years after entry of judgment in the trial phase of a judge’s second-degree relative’s criminal proceedings, provided the judge determines he/she can be fair and impartial, disclosure is mandated in lieu of disqualification when any prosecutor or defender who was personally involved at the trial phase appears before the judge on unrelated matters. If, after disclosure, a party objects to the judge presiding, the judge has discretion whether to recuse after considering all relevant factors. After the two-year period ends, the judge is not ethically required to disclose or recuse when these attorneys appear, provided he/she can be fair and impartial. (2) The judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when an attorney who is personally involved in handling the judge’s relative’s appeal of the conviction appears, until entry of judgment on the appeal. For two years after entry of judgment on the appeal, disclosure is mandated in lieu of disqualification for the specific attorneys involved. After the two-year period, the judge has no further obligation, provided he/she can be fair and impartial. (3) The judge need not disclose or recuse when the assistant public defender who was initially appointed to represent the judge’s relative on appeal appears, as the attorney’s involvement in the judge’s relative’s case was brief and preliminary in nature. 

Opinion 13-132 (1) A judge whose sibling, grandparent, or grandchild is a criminal defendant need not advise the District Attorney of his/her relationship to the defendant and should not make any unnecessary, voluntary disclosure of the relationship while the litigation is pending. (2) When a private attorney who is currently representing the judge’s sibling, grandparent, or grandchild appears before the judge, the judge is disqualified subject to remittal while the representation is ongoing. For the first two years after the representation is fully concluded, disclosure is mandatory when that attorney appears before the judge but disqualification is in the judge’s sole discretion. 

 

Relative's Current Employment (2nd Degree - sibling/grandchild/grandparent)

Opinion 20-154 A judge is not disqualified from presiding over an action merely because the judge knows that the unrepresented defendant has, in a completely unrelated legal matter, retained the judge’s sibling as counsel.

Opinion 20-37 A judge whose second-degree relative is a caseworker for the department of social services is disqualified in all matters where the relative is personally involved, whether as the named petitioner or as a likely witness. The disqualification is not subject to remittal.

Opinion 19-59 A judge whose second-degree relative is undersheriff (1) may not preside in matters involving the county sheriff’s department unless the disqualification is properly remitted but (2) may conduct centralized arraignment program arraignments not involving the county sheriff, even if held at the sheriff’s offices.

Opinion 18-27 A judge whose second-degree relative is the First Deputy District Attorney may preside in criminal cases if he/she is satisfied that his/her relative is completely insulated from any involvement in evaluation, supervision or oversight of any matter that may be assigned to the judge.

Opinion 18-88 A judge whose second-degree relative formerly served as the County Sheriff must disqualify him/herself from all matters pending in the agency during his/her relative’s tenure.

Opinion 17-150 ... (2) A judge whose second-degree relative serves as a non-supervisory assistant public defender: (a) is disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, from cases in which his/her relative personally appears in the courtroom as counsel; (b) is disqualified, subject to remittal, in cases where his/her relative participates as counsel behind the scenes but does not personally appear in the courtroom; and (c) may preside in matters involving his/her relative’s public defender office colleagues, provided the relative has absolutely no involvement in the case and is not the attorney of record.  

Opinion 14-186 A judge whose second-degree relative is the municipality’s deputy dog control officer is disqualified, subject to remittal, from dog ticket cases.  Note: Modified with respect to availability of remittal by Opinion 17-150 and a subsequent amendment to Section 100.3(E)(1)(e) & 100.3(F).

Opinion 13-90 To what extent is a judge’s ability to preside in a county department’s cases affected where the judge’s second degree relative is the only attorney in the department who handles a certain class of cases?

Opinion 10-146 A Town Justice must disqualify him/herself when his/her siblings appear in the judge’s court and, because one sibling is the Town Supervisor, also must disqualify him/herself in any case in which the Town is a party.

Opinion 09-215 Where a judge's second-degree relative (sibling) is a member of the city council, may the judge preside in cases where the city is a party?

 

Miscellaneous (2nd Degree - sibling/grandchild/grandparent)

Opinion 21-164 Provided the judge is satisfied they can be fair and impartial, the judge may preside in a case where (1) the plaintiff is an attorney who frequently appears before the judge and was previously co-counsel with the judge’s sibling on several discrete cases and (2) plaintiff’s counsel rents office space in the same office as the judge’s sibling and also is an elected county legislator representing the district where the judge resides.

Opinion 21-146 An appointed judge whose second-degree relative is presently incarcerated or on parole for a sex offense (1) may preside in other sex offense cases, provided the judge can be fair and impartial, and need not make any disclosure to the parties; (2) need not make any disclosure to the appointing authority; and (3) may be a housing resource for their relative, but may not use the prestige of judicial office to advance the relative’s parole release conditions or other private interests.

Opinion 20-154 A judge is not disqualified from presiding over an action merely because the judge knows that the unrepresented defendant has, in a completely unrelated legal matter, retained the judge’s sibling as counsel.

Opinion 16-155 A judge who, on learning of his/her second-degree relative’s informal counseling relationship with a defendant, promptly disclosed the relationship to both sides and advised his/her relative in writing not to discuss the case or the defendant in his/her presence, may continue to preside in the case, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. The judge must continue to take reasonable steps to discourage and limit ex parte communications. If such communications nonetheless occur, the judge may dispel any appearance of impropriety by disclosing them to both sides.

Opinion 15-18 A judge may preside in cases of protestors, arrested on the same charges as the judge’s second-degree relatives, where the judge’s relatives are not parties and are unlikely to be material witnesses, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 13-90 To what extent is a judge’s ability to preside in a county department’s cases affected where the judge’s second degree relative is the only attorney in the department who handles a certain class of cases?

Opinion 10-146 A Town Justice must disqualify him/herself when his/her siblings appear in the judge’s court and, because one sibling is the Town Supervisor, also must disqualify him/herself in any case in which the Town is a party.

 

Third or Fourth Degree (includes Nieces, Nephews, Aunts, Uncles, and First Cousins)

See 22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1)(d)-(e).

Opinion 19-92 ... (2) Where a judge’s third-degree relative heads the county’s social services department, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from cases in which that department is a named party.

Opinion 16-122 Provided he/she can be fair and impartial, a judge may preside in cases involving an attorney who represented his/her third-degree relative on other matters. Disclosure is not required.

Opinion 15-191 May a judge preside when other attorneys from the firm where his/her niece or nephew is an associate appear?

Opinion 14-174 May a judge preside in a foreclosure case where the law firm representing the bank employs the Principal Law Clerk's fourth degree relative who is not involved in the case?

Opinion 14-147 Although a judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when his/her uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, great-grandparent, or great-grandchild appears before the judge as an attorney, this obligation does not extend to the relative’s law firm colleagues. The judge may preside in contested or uncontested cases involving other attorneys from the law firm of a relative within the fourth degree but beyond the second degree of relationship, provided the judge can be fair and impartial; and may also appoint such attorneys as fiduciary, impartially and on the basis of merit. The judge has no affirmative duty to disclose the familial relationship in such matters.

Opinion 10-184 Where a judge's niece is married to a deputy sheriff and the judge was previously a part-time employee of the same sheriff's department for the last five years, may the judge preside in cases involving the sheriff's department?

Opinion 10-52 (1) A judge must exercise disqualification, subject to remittal, when the judge’s spouse’s first cousin, who is an attorney, appears in the judge’s court. The judge may not appoint him/her as a law guardian, nor should the judge ask his/her co-judge to assign the judge’s spouse’s first cousin to the judge’s part. 

Opinion 09-97 A judge whose first cousin’s spouse is an assistant district attorney/investigator for the District Attorney in the same county where the judge presides must disqualify him/herself in any case where his/her first cousin’s spouse is involved, including where the District Attorney’s office makes an application for a search warrant. Because an application for a search warrant is an ex parte proceeding, remittal of the disqualification is not permitted. And, because the judge’s first cousin’s spouse’s involvement in the underlying matter will not necessarily be apparent from the search warrant application, the judge must inquire in each case as to whether and to what extent his/her first cousin’s spouse is involved.

Opinion 09-61 A judge who must disqualify him/herself in criminal cases because he/she is the District Attorney’s 4th degree relative, nevertheless may preside when a defendant who previously has been arraigned thereafter appears in the judge’s court without representation and requests an adjournment to secure representation, as long as the judge will grant the adjournment.

 

Fifth or Sixth Degree (includes Second Cousins)

See 22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1)(d).

Opinion 22-10 Is a judge disqualified from cases filed by a law firm in which their second cousin is a partner?

Opinion 16-121 What are a judge's obligations in cases involving a probation officer who is the judge's fifth-degree relative by blood or marriage?

Opinion 12-174 Must a judge disclose that their sixth degree relative is a high ranking official in a county agency, or disqualify, when caseworkers subject to their relative's oversight appear in cases before them?

Opinion 12-103 May a judge preside in cases where their cousin's child, a law enforcement officer, is likely to appear before them in traffic court?

Opinion 11-147 A judge need not disqualify him/herself solely because of the familial relationship when the judge’s second cousin who is a law enforcement officer appears as a witness in the judge’s court but has the discretion to disclose the relationship and to grant or deny any resulting request for recusal, unless the judge’s relationship with his/her relative/law enforcement officer is so close that it would cause the judge’s impartiality to reasonably be questioned.

Opinion 09-33 What should a judge do when their spouse's second cousin (a sixth-degree relative) represents a criminal defendant before the judge?

 

Beyond Sixth Degree; Non-Relatives (Too Remote / No Common Ancestor)

Opinion 21-32 A judge need not disqualify from matters involving an attorney acquaintance, merely because the attorney is the child of the judge’s spouse’s deceased former spouse, where the judge’s spouse and the attorney treat each other as acquaintances rather than family.

Opinion 18-87 May a judge preside in a matter involving the half-sibling of his/her great-niece/great-nephew?

Opinion 13-114 A judge need not disqualify him/herself when a litigant who is the niece/nephew (by marriage) of the judge’s first cousin (by marriage) appears in the judge’s court.

Opinion 11-49 A judge need not disqualify him/herself solely because an individual appearing in the judge’s court is the sibling of the judge’s son-in-law/daughter-in-law, as long as the judge can be impartial and there is no other factor concerning such individual that would cause the judge’s impartiality to reasonably be questioned.

Opinion 09-189 May a judge preside in a matter involving the niece/nephew of the judge's aunt/uncle by marriage?

 

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Conflicts - Judge's Social Relationships

Analysis usually begins with Opinion 11-125, which sets forth three categories of social relationships.

Opinion 22-42 A judge need not disclose nor recuse from a proceeding merely because an attorney in the matter is also the judge's neighbor and has, in that capacity, supported a non-controversial residential zoning variance sought by the judge.

Opinion 22-39 (1) A judge-elect who will preside in many cases involving a city may permit the Corporation Counsel to administer their oath of office. (2) A judge's social relationship with the Corporation Counsel does not, without more, require disqualification or disclosure when an assistant corporation counsel or other subordinates appear before the judge.

Opinion 21-92 What is a judge's obligation in matters involving the law firm colleagues of an attorney with whom the judge maintains a "close social relationship" or "close personal relationship" that requires disclosure or disqualification under Opinion 11-125?

Opinion 21-48 (2) Where an attorney alleges in a recusal motion that the judge and the attorney previously had a close social relationship which subsequently deteriorated into an adversarial relationship, the judge should fully disclose the nature and extent of that relationship so that a determination can be made whether recusal is required under such circumstances.

Opinion 21-32 A judge need not disqualify from matters involving an attorney acquaintance, merely because the attorney is the child of the judge’s spouse’s deceased former spouse, where the judge’s spouse and the attorney treat each other as acquaintances rather than family.

Opinion 21-06 May a judge preside in matters involving an attorney who is the sibling of the judge’s close personal friend, where that attorney is merely an “acquaintance” under Opinion 11-125?

Opinion 21-04 A judge has no ethical obligation to vacate their decision in a criminal case, merely because the defendant was the judge’s student several decades ago and they remain friendly acquaintances.

Opinion 19-161 May a judge preside in matters involving the city prosecutor, given the friendship between their children?

Opinion 18-113 (1) A judge who concludes his/her social relationship with an assistant public defender requires disclosure or disqualification may nonetheless preside in cases where a defendant is represented by the Public Defender or other assistant public defenders in the same office, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. (2) Where an assistant public defender is associated with a part-time judge's law firm, the judge (a) must prohibit that assistant public defender from appearing before any judge of the court in which he/she presides but (b) may preside in cases where a defendant is represented by the Office of the Public Defender or other assistant public defenders in the same office, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 18-102 Assuming he/she can be fair and impartial, a newly elected judge may preside in cases of a lawyer who (a) formerly served on the executive committee of the judge’s local political party providing social media and website help to the party’s entire slate of candidates and (b) is an acquaintance who does not socialize privately with the judge but only interacts with him/her as parents of very young children during play dates and birthday parties. On these facts, neither disclosure nor disqualification is required.

Opinion 17-92 A judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when a law student who appears before him/her pursuant to a student practice order is directly supervised by an attorney with whom the judge maintains a close personal relationship.

Opinion 17-16 A new judge, who previously served as law clerk to his/her current supervising judge and attended multiple events at the judge's home, must disclose the relationship in cases involving the supervising judge's spouse's law firm. Thereafter, the judge may preside if he/she can be fair and impartial after considering all relevant factors. However, because disclosure is mandatory, the judge must disqualify him/herself if a party in the case is appearing without counsel.  NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 16-114 Provided he/she can be fair and impartial, a full-time judge may preside in matters involving (1) a government agency where the judge’s former public sector colleague and current social acquaintance has a high-ranking position and (2) a public law department headed by a part-time judge. No disclosures are required in these circumstances.

Opinion 16-48 Is a judge disqualified from presiding in a case where a party and his/her spouse are long-time acquaintances of the judge's spouse and an associate in that party's law firm served as the judge's court attorney more than a decade ago?

Opinion 15-185 A court attorney-referee need not disclose or recuse from matters involving an attorney who is no more than an acquaintance, merely because the attorney’s sibling is a close personal friend.

Opinion 15-45 Although a judge must assess his/her current relationship with a lawyer who was formerly a close personal friend in order to decide if disclosure or disqualification is required in cases where the former friend is personally involved, any such obligations do not automatically extend to the attorney’s colleagues or subordinates in a public law office.

Opinion 15-38 What is a judge's ethical obligation when the judge's former law firm associate, who is now an assistant district attorney, appears before the judge?

Opinion 14-96 May a judge preside in a particular uncontested matter, in which the parties are a judge and his/her spouse with whom the judge has had very limited social interaction over the years?

Opinion 14-90 A judge’s social relationship with the deputy director of a legal services organization does not, alone, require disqualification or disclosure when the deputy director’s subordinates appear before the judge.

Opinion 13-106 Must a judge disqualify him/herself when an attorney with whom the judge has a social relationship appears in the judge’s court?

Opinion 13-59 Must a judge who has never been professionally associated with a law firm, but either has or has had social or professional relationships with two attorneys who are partners in the firm, preside when other members of the firm appear in the judge's court?

Opinion 13-49 If the judge determines that he/she can be impartial and that neither disclosure nor disqualification is required under Opinion 11-125, whether to disclose the social connection the judge has to an assistant district attorney who is the future spouse of the judge’s law firm colleague is solely within the judge’s discretion. 

Opinion 13-39 Does the mere status of being "Facebook friends," without more, require a judge's disqualification in a case?

Opinion 12-151 What are a judge's obligations when a fellow member of their golf club, or that member's partners or associates, appear before the judge?

Opinion 12-147 Where the New York State Attorney General is the attorney of record in a case involving a state agency, a judge who has both an ongoing social relationship and a prior professional relationship with the state agency's general counsel is not required to disqualify him/herself, provided that the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 12-125 Must a judge disclose their social relationship with an attorney appearing before them and/or disqualify themselves from presiding because of that relationship?

Opinion 12-90 May a judge attend the wedding of a former colleague who regularly appears before them in court as an attorney?  What will the judge's ethical obligations be in matters involving the attorney if the judge attends the wedding and gives a gift?

Opinion 12-85(B) What is a judge's ethical obligation when law firm colleagues of an attorney with whom the judge has a social relationship are involved in cases before the judge?

Opinion 12-85(A) What is a judge's ethical obligation when an attorney with whom the judge has a social relationship submits papers in a matter assigned to the judge?

Opinion 11-149 A Family Court judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from any PINS petition filed by or on behalf of a high school where the principal is the judge’s personal friend and the judge’s spouse is a teacher.

Opinion 11-125 Whether a judge must disclose the relationship or disqualify him/herself when the judge and an attorney appearing before the judge are acquaintances, friends, or otherwise interact socially depends on such factors as the nature of the relationship with the attorney, the inter-relationships among their respective immediate family members, the frequency and context of their contacts, and whether they or their respective family members share confidences.

Opinion 11-45 A judge must disqualify him/herself when his/her former law partner appears in the judge’s court where the judge and his/her former law partner terminated their prior professional relationship within the past three years and their families maintain a close ongoing social relationship. The judge’s disqualification is subject to remittal, unless a party is self-represented. [NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.]

Opinion 11-20 A judge who has a close personal relationship with an attorney, must disclose the relationship’s nature and extent if the attorney appears before him/her and should exercise discretion in determining whether to disqualify him/herself after considering all relevant factors. If the judge decides to preside, he/she should put his/her reasons on the record.

Opinion 10-155 A judge must determine whether his/her relationship with a former colleague of the same court who appears as a private practitioner in the judge’s court requires his/her disqualification.

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Conflicts - Judge's Former Employment, Former Clients, or Former Colleagues

Opinion 22-51 A full-time judge who previously served on a town’s zoning board is disqualified on all matters which were pending before the board during the judge’s tenure. However, the judge may preside in other matters involving the zoning board, assuming the judge is satisfied they can be fair and impartial, and disclosure is entirely discretionary.

Opinion 22-31 May a part-time attorney judge preside in a small claims matter involving a former client they represented nine years ago in Family Court?

Opinion 22-29 A full-time judge may preside over cases involving an insurance company for which the judge had previously served as in-house counsel once two years have elapsed since the end of the relationship or the final payment of any fees to the judge, whichever is later, provided the judge had no involvement in the case before them as counsel.

Opinion 22-22(B) A full-time judge, previously employed as an attorney in a not-for-profit labor union's legal services office, and who upon retirement will be eligible for a pension and medical benefits through the union: (1) is permanently disqualified in cases where the judge participated in any way as an attorney, whether in a personal or supervisory capacity; (2) is disqualified for two years, subject to remittal, in cases involving the judge's former clients; but (3) is not otherwise disqualified from cases where a litigant is represented by the union, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 22-20 May a judge, who previously served as a prosecutor in the court where they now preside (1) sign “post dispositional documents” such as probation transfers, warrants, declaration of delinquencies, Securing Orders/Orders to Produce; and (2) conduct an arraignment of a particular individual in a matter where the judge would ordinarily be disqualified, and then “upon completion of the arraignment immediately disqualify” from the matter?

Opinion 22-17 (1) Where a judge was previously a social services provider to criminal defendant clients: (a) The judge must disqualify if one of those clients appears before the judge on the same case. (b) The judge may preside if the case currently before the judge is unrelated to the underlying case where the judge previously worked as a social service provider to the same client and the judge concludes that the judge can be fair and impartial. (c) But if the judge becomes aware of a material, relevant connection between the case currently before the judge and the underlying case where the judge previously worked as a social services provider to the same client, then the judge must disclose the connection. If the judge then concludes that the judge can be fair and impartial, the judge may preside. (2) If a judge is disqualified in a matter, the disqualification applies to all stages of the case, including the issuance or staying of a bench warrant. (3) A judge who previously served as an institutional criminal defense attorney or as a social services provider to numerous criminal defendants must adopt reasonable procedures to identify such clients. However, the judge need not investigate or take any other action unless the judge actually recognizes a particular individual as a former client, or unless such former client relationship is otherwise brought to the judge’s attention.

Opinion 22-03 A full-time judge who previously served as a supervising Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and then as the Chief ALJ with the Board of Parole Revocation Bureau (1) must disqualify from the criminal matters of individuals for whom a revocation proceeding was commenced or pending during the judge’s tenure, but (2) may preside over the criminal matters of defendants for whom a revocation proceeding was commenced after the judge’s tenure, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 21-175 When a village trustee resigns to take office as village justice, is he/she required to disqualify whenever the village attorney appears or in all cases involving village laws or ordinances?

Opinion 21-172 A new full-time judge who was until recently an assistant public defender: (1) is permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, from all matters in which the judge participated as an attorney, in any capacity, either personally or as a supervisor; (2) is disqualified, subject to remittal, for a period of two years, from any matter involving the judge’s former client; but (3) may otherwise immediately preside over new matters that are filed by the public defender’s office, including those where a defendant is represented by an attorney who was previously supervised by the judge, provided that the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 21-151 (1) A new part-time judge who previously represented clients as a non-supervisory assistant public defender: (a) is permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, in any case where the judge previously participated as an attorney and (b) is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all matters involving their former clients, for two years after the attorney-client relationship completely ends. (2) Once the two-year period has elapsed, the judge may preside in matters involving these former clients, provided the judge had absolutely no involvement as an attorney in the specific case before the judge and assuming the judge can be fair and impartial. (3) If the judge becomes aware that a case before the judge has substantial connections that are material and relevant to a case where the judge had previously served as an assistant public defender, the judge should fully disclose the connection between the two cases, as well as the nature and extent of the judge’s involvement in the prior proceeding, but may thereafter preside if the judge concludes they can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 21-111 A judge who was previously involved in the implementation of a new county-wide vehicle and traffic law camera enforcement program on behalf of the designated "charging agency" for these alleged violations, but left that employment and assumed judicial office before the agency commenced prosecuting these matters, need not disqualify when accusatory instruments from this program come before the judge.

Opinion 21-107 Provided the judge can be fair and impartial, a judge need not disqualify from all cases involving a former opposing counsel, even though the judge had, as an attorney, criticized the opposing counsel's conduct in a letter to the tribunal.

Opinion 21-29 A full-time judge who worked for an insurance company more than a decade ago and has a pension benefit associated with that company is disqualified when that former employer appears as an insurer of a party in a lawsuit pending before the judge. However, the disqualification is subject to remittal.

Opinion 21-27 May a family court judge hear a custody/visitation case involving the same family in which the judge had previously served as attorney for the child 12 years ago?

Opinion 21-20 A judge may preside in a criminal case that arose during the judge’s tenure at the District Attorney’s office, where the matter was handled exclusively and personally by the District Attorney and the judge had no involvement with the file whatsoever.

Opinion 21-17 Where a new full-time judge was previously a law firm partner and took a loan from the firm’s 401(k) profit sharing plan, the judge may remain in the plan temporarily in order to pay back the loan and receive the plan’s annual employer matching contribution based on the judge’s prior legal work and earnings. The judge must continue to disqualify from matters involving the former firm and the judge’s former partners and associates during this period and for two years after the financial relationship completely terminates. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 21-07 The judge, a former assistant district attorney, may not preside in: (1) a criminal case in which the judge had some minimal prior involvement as an attorney; or (2) a criminal case in which a prior conviction, which the judge prosecuted approximately a decade ago, is an element of the felony offense.

Opinion 21-05 A judge must not preside in a criminal case that has been transferred to drug treatment court where the judge entered a single appearance as the prosecutor in the underlying criminal case.

Opinion 20-185 (1) A judge who previously served process for a supervisory assistant district attorney’s private law office is (a) permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, from any case in which the judge served process and (b) disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving that law office for two years after the business and financial relationship between them completely ends. The judge may nonetheless preside in uncontested traffic cases where the defendant pleads guilty by mail. (2) Where the judge previously served process and performed contracting work for a private law firm that also employs the judge’s spouse as a secretary, the judge is (a) permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, from any case in which the judge served process and (b) disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving that law firm for two years after the process serving and contracting relationship completely ends or until the judge’s spouse’s employment ends, whichever is later. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 20-98 Where a judge is being sued for acts allegedly undertaken in his/her former official capacity as a city attorney, rather than for conduct in his/her individual capacity: (1) During the representation, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving the specific city attorney(s) who are personally involved in the judge’s representation. Once the representation concludes, the judge may preside in matters involving those attorneys, provided he/she can be fair and impartial, and disclosure is entirely in his/her discretion. (2) Both during the representation and afterward, the judge may otherwise preside in matters involving the city and other co-defendants, city employees and other witnesses, and city attorneys who have no involvement in representing the judge, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. Disclosure is within the judge’s discretion.

Opinion 20-73 A full-time judge who formerly worked for the Legal Aid Society (1) is permanently disqualified in cases in which he/she participated in any way as an attorney, whether in a personal or supervisory capacity and (2) is disqualified for two years, subject to remittal, in cases involving his/her former clients. The judge may otherwise preside in criminal cases, including those in which his/her former colleagues appear, provided he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 20-43 A judge who headed the DSS legal department as the senior social services attorney is disqualified from all cases in which the judge participated, however minimally, either directly or as a supervisor, at any stage. However, the judge may preside over other cases pending at DSS during his/her tenure, if both the judge and the legal department had absolutely no involvement in the matter.

Opinion 20-40 May a new full-time judge preside in certain matters involving his/her former law partner and his/her court attorney’s former law firm or former clients?

Opinion 20-20 A judge who recently served as the District Attorney, and earlier as an assistant district attorney: (1) is disqualified from presiding in criminal matters pending or prosecuted by the office during his/her tenure as the District Attorney; (2) may preside in criminal matters handled by the DA’s office before he/she became the District Attorney, provided the judge had absolutely no involvement in the matter as an assistant district attorney; and (3) may approve 18-B vouchers submitted by defense counsel and assign counsel for administrative parole revocation hearings relating to matters previously prosecuted by the judge or his/her subordinates.

Opinion 20-07 A judge with an interest in unpaid fees separately shared by the judge’s former partner must disqualify, subject to remittal, in any matter where the former partner appears, for two years after final payment of those fees, but need not disclose or disqualify from matters handled by other attorneys from the same county department of social services where the former partner is now employed.

Opinion 19-170 On these facts, a judge’s impartiality cannot reasonably be questioned in matters involving an assistant public defender, merely because the judge, in his/her capacity as a college or university administrator, has some supervisory authority over the APD’s spouse on a multi-year grant-funded research project. The judge may thus continue to preside in matters involving the APD, provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial, and disclosure is not required.

Opinion 19-164 A full-time judge whose former law firm colleague serves as a part-time non-supervisory conflict defender (1) may not preside in matters involving his/her former colleague for two years but (2) may preside in matters in which other attorneys from the conflict defender’s office appear.

Opinion 19-156 May a justice who previously participated in village policy decisions as a village trustee (presumably including amendments to the village code), preside in cases involving village code violations?

Opinion 19-148(A) Where a judge previously served as a non-supervisory assistant county attorney and his/her spouse continues to serve in such capacity:
(1) Judge’s Own Cases. The judge is permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, from all cases in which he/she participated in any way as an attorney.
(2) Spouse’s Cases. The judge is disqualified from all cases involving his/her spouse, and remittal is not permitted unless all specified conditions are strictly met.
(3) Related Cases. If the judge believes the family offense, neglect/abuse, or JD/PINS charges he/she handled as an ACA are materially relevant to the matter currently before him/her, then he/she must fully disclose the connection between the two cases. Because disclosure is mandated in lieu of disqualification, the judge is disqualified if any party is appearing without counsel. Otherwise, assuming the judge can be fair and impartial, he/she retains full discretion as to whether to preside, even if a party objects.
(4) Other, Unrelated Cases. The judge may otherwise immediately preside in other cases involving the county attorney’s office, including those (a) prosecuted by his/her former public sector colleagues and supervisors; (b) involving respondents or other individuals who appeared in family offense, neglect/abuse, or JD/PINS matters the judge handled, provided the judge can be fair and impartial; and (c) involving an individual who is or was a respondent in family court in a matter handled by the judge’s spouse. Neither disclosure nor disqualification is required, and there is no waiting period.
(5) Investigations. The judge may preside in matters involving individuals who were merely “under investigation” for possible future family offense or neglect/abuse matters during the judge’s tenure as ACA, provided (i) neither the judge nor his/her spouse had any involvement whatsoever and (ii) the judge can be fair and impartial.
(6) Pistol Permits. With respect to individuals who were respondents in administrative pistol permit proceedings handled by the judge, the judge is disqualified if he/she has personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts in the proceeding before him/her. If the pistol permit itself is a factor in the city court matter, the judge must disqualify. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 19-33 A support magistrate who did not sell his/her former law practice, but instead simply forwarded clients’ files and transferred the remaining retainer balances to an attorney chosen by the clients, is disqualified, subject to remittal, in matters where the attorney appears for a period of one year following the transfer. Disqualification is not required for other members of the attorney’s firm.

Opinion 19-25 Where a town justice’s law firm formerly had a business relationship with another firm involving uncompensated courtesy referrals, the judge is disqualified from all cases in which the other firm appears for two years from the date their business relationship completely terminated. The disqualification is subject to remittal after full disclosure, provided no party is appearing without counsel. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 19-15 A Family Court Judge, who previously served, by contract, as the principal attorney for the Department of Social Services (1) is permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, from cases that were pending in that office during the judge's tenure, regardless of whether the judge had actual knowledge of or involvement in a particular matter; (2) may immediately preside in newly filed DSS cases, even when handled by former contract attorneys the judge previously supervised, provided (i) the new case has no substantial connection with a case pending during the judge's prior tenure and (ii) the judge can be fair and impartial; and (3) where the newly filed DSS case has substantial connections that are material and relevant with a case that was pending in that office during the judge's tenure, the judge must fully disclose the connection between the two cases, as well as the nature and extent of his/her involvement in the prior proceeding, but may thereafter preside, provided (i) no party is appearing without counsel and (ii) the judge concludes he/she can be impartial. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 19-13 (4) A judge who, along with his/her spouse, previously worked for a government law office in a non-supervisory capacity may preside in cases where neither the judge nor his/her spouse had any personal involvement and in which neither was the attorney of record. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 19-04 Must a town justice who also serves as an OCA approved transcriptionist disclose he/she has provided transcription services to attorneys when they appear before him/her?

Opinion 18-172 A part-time judge who previously served as a prosecutor with very limited supervisory responsibilities: (1) must not preside in criminal cases commenced during his/her tenure, if he/she had any involvement either directly or in a supervisory capacity; (2) may otherwise preside in criminal cases prosecuted by his/her former colleagues, provided the judge had no involvement in the matter and can be fair and impartial; and (3) may enter private practice subject to certain restrictions.

Opinion 18-131 A town justice who had a decades-long career in the town’s police department and retired as Assistant Chief of Police shortly before assuming judicial office (1) must not preside in cases where the arrests or summonses were issued during his/her former employment but (2) may adjudicate new matters involving the police department provided the judge had no involvement in the matter and the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 18-118 Where a full-time judge was formerly an equity partner in a large law firm, and will receive life-long annual retirement benefits from the firm, but those retirement benefits are effectively “fixed” on a particular date rather than tied to the firm’s ongoing profits: (1) the judge is permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, from all cases in which the judge had any personal involvement as a lawyer; (2) the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all cases involving the law firm as long as he/she continues to receive retirement benefits from the firm; (3) the judge need not consult the firm’s conflict databases to determine whether a litigant is a current or past client of the law firm; (4) the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all cases involving litigants the judge recognizes as current clients of the firm as long as he/she continues to receive retirement benefits from the firm; (5) for two years from the date the retirement benefits are effectively “fixed,” the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all cases involving litigants the judge recognizes as past clients of the law firm.

Opinion 18-83 A new court attorney-referee, who served as principal law clerk to a judge in a specialized part, (1) may not hear cases on which he/she worked as a law clerk but (2) may hear new cases referred by that judge immediately on being hired.

Opinion 18-62 A judge may preside in cases where a judicial colleague’s former temporary part-time law clerk appears, provided he/she can be fair and impartial. Disclosure is not required. Under the circumstances, the judge also need not insulate his/her principal court attorney from cases involving the former law clerk, even though the court attorney provided supervision and guidance.

Opinion 18-46 Where a full-time judge and his/her former law firm have an ongoing financial relationship after the judge assumes the bench, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when a client or former client of the firm appears before the judge. The obligation continues until two years after that relationship completely ends, including return of any distributed capital to the judge. After the two-year period, the decision of whether to disclose or recuse is confined solely to the judge’s discretion, after considering all relevant factors.

Opinion 18-31 A new Surrogate’s Court judge who sold his/her cabinet of wills to an attorney for a one-time payment: (1) may not preside in any cases involving the purchased wills and (2) is disqualified, subject to remittal, in all other cases involving the attorney for two years following the payment for the files. During the two-year disqualification period, the judge may not preside in any uncontested cases involving the attorney who purchased the wills, as remittal would not be possible.

Opinion 18-19 May a part-time town justice who previously served as the Town Attorney preside over matters involving attorneys he/she had hired to serve as town prosecutors?

Opinion 18-02 A judge who formerly served as a probation officer: (1) is disqualified from all cases in which he/she previously served as a probation officer; (2) may preside in unrelated cases involving his/her former probation clients, provided he/she can be fair and impartial; and (3) must disclose his/her prior service as a probation officer if he/she becomes aware of a material, relevant connection between the case currently before him/her and a case in which he/she previously served as probation officer. Where disclosure is mandated, the judge may preside after such disclosure, provided no party is appearing without counsel and the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 17-175 A full-time judge who has advised a former client that he/she (a) can no longer practice law and (b) has already personally turned over the entire trial file to the former client, need not take any further action in response to the former client's threat to report the judge for allegedly not returning the trial file.

Opinion 17-169/17-170 (1) A full-time County/Family Court judge who previously was a practicing attorney in the same county: (a) is permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, from matters in which the judge participated as an attorney in any way, including minimally, in a personal or supervisory capacity; and (b) is disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving his/her former clients for two years after the relationship completely ends or final payment of any fees pending or owed to the judge, whichever is later. (2) In addition, where the judge previously headed the Public Defender’s office: (a) the judge is permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, from cases that were pending in that office during the judge’s tenure as the Public Defender, regardless of whether the judge had actual knowledge of or involvement in a particular matter; (b) the judge may immediately preside in newly filed Public Defender cases, even when handled by assistant public defenders the judge previously supervised, provided (i) the new case has no substantial connection with a case pending during the judge’s prior tenure and (ii) the judge can be fair and impartial; (c) on becoming aware that a newly filed Public Defender case has “substantial connections” that are material and relevant to a case that was pending in that office during his/her tenure as the Public Defender, the judge must fully disclose the connection between the two cases, as well as the nature and extent of his/her involvement in the prior proceeding, but may thereafter preside subject to certain limitations; and (d) the judge may preside in cases that do not involve the Public Defender’s office, even though that office currently represents or represented a “co-defendant” in a separate case where the judge had no involvement, subject to certain limitations.

Opinion 17-162 A judge who was the District Attorney when a defendant was convicted may not preside in a subsequent application to seal the criminal conviction pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law § 160.59.

Opinion 17-150 (1) A new full-time judge who previously represented clients as a non-supervisory conflict defender and as a private attorney: (a) is permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, in any case where he/she previously participated as an attorney; (b) is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all matters involving his/her former clients, for two years after the relationship completely ends; (c) is disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving individuals he/she recognizes as clients of his/her former law partner, for two years after assuming the bench; and (d) may preside in matters involving his/her prior conflicts office colleagues, provided the judge had absolutely no involvement in the case and was not the attorney of record, assuming the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 17-100 How long must a full-time judge wait before presiding over new filings involving a former institutional client when an attorney, not affiliated with the judge's former law firm, now represents the former client? When does the disqualification period commence?

Opinion 17-76 A judge must disqualify him/herself in cases involving a law firm that is representing the judge's first-degree relative and former law partner in a disciplinary investigation of their joint IOLA account. Remittal is not available unless the judge can fully disclose the fact and nature of the representation, and how it affects the judge's interests, without violating his/her relative's right to confidentiality.

Opinion 17-27 May a full-time trial-level judge have discussions with various public and private entities concerning potential post-judicial employment? After leaving the bench, may the judge appear before former colleagues?

Opinion 17-16 A new judge, who previously served as law clerk to his/her current supervising judge and attended multiple events at the judge's home, must disclose the relationship in cases involving the supervising judge's spouse's law firm. Thereafter, the judge may preside if he/she can be fair and impartial after considering all relevant factors. However, because disclosure is mandatory, the judge must disqualify him/herself if a party in the case is appearing without counsel. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 17-10 May a newly elected judge preside over matters that arose during his/her prior tenure as the County Attorney?

Opinion 17-08 A part-time judge whose former private employer has become the District Attorney has the following obligations when the District Attorney or his/her staff appears, during the two-year period following the termination of their former employment relationship: (1) In the first year, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from presiding in any case involving the District Attorney's office; (2) In the second year, disclosure is mandated in lieu of disqualification, and the judge may exercise discretion in determining any motion for recusal. During the entire two-year period, the judge may not preside in a case involving the District Attorney's office if a party is appearing without counsel. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 16-163/16-170 (1) A full-time judge who is both a former assistant public defender and a former private law firm partner, and whose former law firm colleague supervises all attorneys in the Public Defender’s office, is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all cases in which the Public Defender’s office appears for two years following complete termination of the financial and business relationship between the judge and his/her former law firm. (2) Once the two-year period is over, the judge may preside over cases in which the Public Defender’s office appears, provided he/she had no involvement in the case and was not the attorney of record. (3) However, the judge is perpetually disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, for all cases in which he/she had any involvement whatsoever as an attorney before assuming the bench.

Opinion 16-114 Provided he/she can be fair and impartial, a full-time judge may preside in matters involving (1) a government agency where the judge’s former public sector colleague and current social acquaintance has a high-ranking position and (2) a public law department headed by a part-time judge. No disclosures are required in these circumstances.

Opinion 16-59 May a judge who previously served as a local prosecutor for a lightly populated municipality for many years, ending over a decade ago, preside in a case involving high-profile allegations of recent misconduct by the local police?

Opinion 16-36 (1) An appellate judge who was formerly an equity partner in a large law firm is disqualified for two years from hearing appeals involving a party the judge recognizes as a current or former client of the law firm, even though a different law firm is representing the client. (2) Where there are ongoing financial connections or obligations between the judge and the firm, the two-year period commences from the date on which the financial relationship between the judge and the law firm completely ends. (3) A judge need not refer to the firm’s conflict databases to determine whether a client relationship exists. [Note: Modified by Opinion 18-118.]

Opinion 16-20 May a judge whose prior service as an assistant attorney general ended five years ago preside in matters involving the Attorney General's office?

Opinion 16-14 What are a judge's obligations with respect to his/her former colleagues at a private law firm and his/her former subordinates in a government law office?

Opinion 15-221 What are a judge's obligations where the District Attorney is a former client of the judge's law firm, but the representation completely ended four years ago?

Opinion 15-211 A judge who formerly served as an assistant district attorney is disqualified from presiding over any matters in which he/she was involved in any way, but may preside over other cases involving that office where he/she had absolutely no involvement. The judge must insulate his/her law clerk from any matters in which the law clerk participated as a prosecuting attorney or supervisor and disclose the law clerk’s prior position and current insulation accordingly.

Opinion 15-194 On becoming a part-time village justice, may an attorney preside over cases when his/her former law partner appears?

Opinion 15-148 In these circumstances, a judge, who represented a particular category of litigants in the specialized court where he/she now sits, may not remain on the e-mail list for a former colleague’s summaries, commentary, and compilations of recent cases, if this resource is unavailable to the Bar or public.

Opinion 15-126  ... (2) A full-time judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving his/her former partners and associates for two years after the relationship completely ends. The judge must also assess any ongoing social relationship he/she may maintain with his/her former partners and associates, which may extend the period for some attorneys. (3) During the disqualification period, the judge may not appoint his/her former partners or associates to fiduciary positions. (4) A full-time judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving his/her former clients for two years after the relationship completely ends. ...

Opinion 15-67 Under the totality of the specific circumstances presented, a judge who is a former prosecutor should not preside in a case involving a particular individual’s claim of actual innocence.

Opinion 15-63 A judge, “of counsel” to a law firm five years ago and its tenant a decade ago, may appoint a partner of the firm to Part 36 fiduciary appointments, provided all the judge’s ties with the firm are completely severed for over two years from the final termination of such business/financial relationships.

Opinion 15-51 A full-time judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when a client or former client of the judge’s former law firm appears before the judge. This obligation continues until two years after the financial relationship between the judge and the former firm completely ends, including return of any distributed capital to the judge. After that period, the judge has no further obligation with respect to the former client; the decision of whether to disclose or recuse is confined solely to the judge’s discretion after considering all relevant factors. [Note: Modified by Opinion 18-118.]

Opinion 15-38 What is a judge's ethical obligation when the judge's former law firm associate, who is now an assistant district attorney, appears before the judge?

Opinion 15-19 A full-time judge who asked his/her former law firm in writing to immediately remove the judge’s name from the firm’s signage, letterhead, and other materials need not take any further action.

Opinion 14-172 May a judge preside in cases involving the municipality where the judge presides, and specifically, in building and zoning violations when the judge served as the municipal attorney immediately prior to assuming the bench, and prosecuted building and zoning violations?

Opinion 14-61 (1) A town or village judge who until recently was employed as a secretary in the local prosecutor’s office: (a) must not preside in any case that was pending in the local prosecutor’s office during the period of his/her employment and (b) is disqualified, subject to remittal, when his/her former supervisor appears, for one year after the employment relationship ends. During this one-year period, the judge may not preside over matters in which his/her former employer appears if any party to the matter is proceeding without legal representation. (2) A town or village judge who was employed as a secretary in the District Attorney’s office more than four years ago must not preside in any case that was pending in that office during the period of the judge’s employment but, otherwise, has no obligation to disclose or recuse as a result of the former employment. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 14-47 May a judge preside in problem-solving court cases when the judge’s former client from the judge’s prior service as a public service attorney, appears? 

Opinion 14-32 (1) Where a prospective witness and alleged victim in a criminal case is the presiding judge’s former client on a single unrelated misdemeanor case that concluded more than five years ago, and the case currently before the judge will be tried by a jury, the judge has no obligation to disclose the former representation or disqualify him/herself from the criminal case. (2) Where a prospective witness and alleged victim in a criminal case was formerly a respondent in a case the judge prosecuted in his/her former capacity as a government attorney, and there is no substantial connection between the circumstances underlying the prior case and the facts and legal issues of the criminal case, the judge has no obligation to disclose the former adversarial relationship or disqualify him/herself from the criminal case.

Opinion 14-22 May a judge preside over cases in which the judge's former colleagues at a public law office appear as counsel once the judge becomes a full time judge and resigns his/her position in that office?

Opinion 14-10 A judge who formerly served as the District Attorney for the county where the judge presides (1) is disqualified from presiding over any cases that were pending in the District Attorney's office during the judge's term as District Attorney and remittal is unavailable, but (2) may preside over matters involving individuals who were previously investigated or prosecuted by the District Attorney's office during the judge's term as District Attorney, subject to certain limitations.

Opinion 14-07 A judge who formerly served in a high-ranking supervisory position in the county attorney's office, and thus frequently represented a county agency in neglect and abuse proceedings, either personally or through assistant county attorneys subject to his/her supervision: (1) is disqualified from presiding over any proceedings commenced or prosecuted by the county attorney's office during the judge's employment in a high-ranking supervisory capacity, and remittal is unavailable, but (2) may preside over other matters involving individuals who were previously respondents in neglect and abuse proceedings brought by the judge or assistant county attorneys subject to the judge's supervision, subject to certain limitations. Where the judge's current law clerk was also an assistant county attorney in the same office, the judge must insulate the law clerk from certain matters. 

Opinion 14-04 May a judge who was previously employed at a local high school in a small community preside in matters in which former students or their family members appear?

Opinion 13-175 A judge is not disqualified from presiding over petitions prepared and filed by his/her successor in the County Attorney’s office, merely because these petitions rely on documents filed by another government official or department while the judge was employed as County Attorney.

Opinion 13-157 May a judge preside over cases brought by the county agency where the judge previously served as a high ranking county attorney for the agency?

Opinion 13-150 When a part-time judge is appointed to a full-time judicial position in the same court, is there a waiting period before part-time lawyer judges who preside in other courts in the county may appear before him/her? Once the judge discontinues his/her law practice, is there a waiting period before the judge's former law firm colleagues may appear before his/her co-judges?

Opinion 13-138 (2) A judge formerly employed by the Department of Social Services as an attorney may preside over cases in which the agency appears, provided that the judge was not previously involved in the case.

Opinion 13-62 Where a prospective witness in a criminal case is the presiding judge’s former client and a jury will hear the evidence and render a verdict, the judge may preside after full disclosure of the prior representation to all sides, including the pro se defendant and his/her standby counsel. If a party objects to the judge’s continued participation in the case, the judge has the sole discretion to recuse or continue to preside.

Opinion 12-179 A judge, who has waived or renounced his/her interest in any and all fees that may be earned from cases that, more than ten years ago, the judge's former law firm referred to a law firm that will appear in the judge's court and that remain on a "deferred" calendar, need not disqualify him/herself when the law firm appears on other, unrelated cases.

Opinion 12-147 Where the New York State Attorney General is the attorney of record in a case involving a state agency, a judge who has both an ongoing social relationship and a prior professional relationship with the state agency's general counsel is not required to disqualify him/herself, provided that the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 12-119 Where a judge was previously a supervising attorney in the indigent defense law office civil division in one county, and now serves as a judge assigned to a criminal term in another county, what are the judge's ethical obligations when an indigent defense attorney appears before him/her?

Opinion 12-17 A full-time judge, who presides in a court devoted to cases involving a particular municipality and who previously was a member of a law firm that litigated cases in the same court against the same municipality, is not required to disclose his/her prior association with the law firm or to disqualify him/herself from cases against the municipality where the judge's prior law firm is not involved.

Opinion 12-13 Must a judge disqualify or disclose their prior landlord/tenant relationship and possible associate relationship with an attorney, which ended more than 16 years ago, when that attorney is currently representing the plaintiffs in a civil action brought against a pro se defendant?

Opinion 12-06 May a town justice who previously served as a road deputy in the county sheriff’s department and, in that capacity, arrested an individual, preside in another, unrelated matter involving that same individual?

Opinion 12-05 A judge who is a former law clerk is disqualified, subject to remittal, when his/her former supervising judge appears as an attorney, for one year after the employment relationship ended. Thereafter, for one additional year, the judge must disclose his/her former employment relationship with the former judge, but has the discretion to grant or deny a resulting motion for recusal. Moreover, during this two-year period, the judge may not preside over matters in which his/her former judge or supervisor appears if any party to the matter is proceeding without legal representation. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 11-127 Absent any other disqualifying factor and assuming the judge can be fair and impartial, a full-time judge who last engaged in the private practice of law more than four years ago need not disclose his/her prior association with a law firm now appearing in the judge’s court. The judge may, in his/her discretion, make such disclosure, even if a party is unrepresented, without incurring any obligation to disqualify him/herself.

Opinion 11-45 A judge must disqualify him/herself when his/her former law partner appears in the judge’s court where the judge and his/her former law partner terminated their prior professional relationship within the past three years and their families maintain a close ongoing social relationship. The judge’s disqualification is subject to remittal, unless a party is self-represented. [NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.]

Opinion 11-26 A judge is not required to disqualify him/herself from a matter involving the constitutionality of a municipal ordinance solely because the same ordinance was in effect during the judge’s former employment as the municipality’s counsel.

Opinion 10-203(B) (2) A judge may be a member with his/her siblings of an LLC that will own several pieces of real estate; (3) A judge must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, when an attorney from the judge’s former law firm appears in the judge’s court for two years after the judge’s employment with his/her former law firm ends or until the landlord/tenant relationship between the judge and his/her former law firm ends, whichever occurs later.

Opinion 10-190 A town justice-elect who serves on the board of the town where he/she will preside and who voted on legislation amending and promulgating town laws and ordinances and on the initial appointment and subsequent annual reappointments of the town attorney is not required to disqualify him/herself when the town attorney appears or when such town laws and ordinances are the subject of cases before him/her.

Opinion 10-184 Where a judge's niece is married to a deputy sheriff and the judge was previously a part-time employee of the same sheriff's department for the last five years, may the judge preside in cases involving the sheriff's department?

Opinion 10-135 If a judge believes that he/she can be impartial, the judge need not disqualify him/herself where (1) an attorney appearing in the judge’s court formerly was the judge’s co-judge in a different court; (2) an attorney appearing in the judge’s court was the town attorney at the same time the judge was town justice for the same town.

Opinion 10-87 A full-time judge need not grant an attorney’s request for the judge’s recusal from all cases involving the attorney’s law firm based on the fact that, seven to ten years ago, the judge’s former law firm represented a party that sued the attorney’s law firm and the attorney’s spouse.

Opinion 09-232 May a judge preside over cases in which the public authority, which the judge represented before assuming the bench, appears as a party?

Opinion 09-222 A town justice-elect who, when he/she takes office, will have been retired for more than two years after thirty-one years of employment by the police department for the same town where he/she will preside, may adjudicate matters involving the same police department as long as the judge had no personal involvement in the matter before him/her and the judge can be impartial.

Opinion 09-139 A city court judge who formerly served as corporation counsel for the same city where he/she presides must disqualify him/herself in any case involving the corporation counsel’s office that arose while the judge served as corporation counsel. However, because the corporation counsel’s office did not prosecute vehicle and traffic matters, the judge need not disqualify him/herself when a police officer from the same municipality where the judge presides appears to prosecute a vehicle and traffic matter, unless the judge cannot be impartial or the corporation counsel’s office litigated a case involving the particular officer while the judge served as corporation counsel.

Opinion 09-107 (2) A part-time town justice must disqualify him/herself when a former client appears in the judge’s court fewer than two years after the representation ended. The judge’s disqualification is subject to remittal unless a party appears without a lawyer. Thereafter, the judge must disclose the former representation and disqualify him/herself upon request unless the judge concludes the request lacks merit after considering all relevant factors. [NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.]

Opinion 09-19 A part-time lawyer judge who is a practicing attorney must disqualify him/herself in cases when a police sergeant currently represented by the judge’s law firm is called to testify before the judge. For two years after the representation is concluded, the disqualification is subject to remittal. Thereafter, the judge should disclose the former representation and disqualify him/herself upon request unless the judge concludes the objection lacks merit after considering all relevant factors. The judge need not disqualify him/herself when another officer appears who might be subject to the sergeant’s supervision. If the judge does learns the sergeant is involved in a case, the judge should disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal. [NOTE: Modified by Opinion 15-51, which says that, "once the two-year period elapses, it should be within the judge’s discretion whether to disclose that the judge or his/her former law firm colleagues represented a client who is currently before the judge as a litigant." ]

Opinion 09-18 A full-time judge who served on a state commission that advised the Governor about correctional facilities need not disqualify him/herself in all cases involving prison inmate matters, but should do so, subject to remittal, where matters involving the commission come before the judge.

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Conflicts - Judge's Current or Former Lawyer

Opinion 22-52 What are a judge's obligations in matters involving an assistant district attorney whose parent (a solo practitioner) is representing the judge in a private legal matter?

Opinion 21-82 (1) A judge who is being represented in an Article 78 proceeding in the judge’s official capacity by private counsel under Public Officers Law § 17(2)(b) is disqualified, subject to remittal, in any matters involving the specific attorneys who are representing the judge for the duration of the representation. The judge is not disqualified when other partners or associates of the law firm appear, provided they have no involvement in representing the judge, but must make disclosure while the representation is ongoing. (2) Once the Article 78 proceeding terminates and the representation ends, the judge need not disclose or disqualify in matters involving the law firm and/or the specific attorneys involved in the representation, assuming the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 20-156 A full-time judge may consult with an attorney regarding the judge’s possible medical malpractice case, even if the attorney regularly appears before the judge. If the consultation is more than strictly brief and preliminary, the judge will ordinarily be disqualified, subject to remittal where permitted, in matters involving the attorney and others from the same law office.

Opinion 20-135 Where a judge is aware that an attorney before him/her was recently an associate in a law firm that is currently representing the judge, but is satisfied that the law firm’s former associate (1) had absolutely no awareness of or involvement in the judge’s representation while employed by the firm, (2) has fully ceased employment with the firm, and (3) has no ongoing business or financial relationship with the firm, disclosure is solely within the judge’s discretion.

Opinion 19-144 While a law firm is representing the judge’s not-for-profit membership corporation, the judge must disclose the representation when the law firm appears before him/her on behalf of other clients.

Opinion 19-104 Where a judge and his/her first-degree relative, as co-fiduciaries of a family trust, retain counsel to negotiate a contract for the trust: (1) During the representation, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, in all matters involving that attorney or his/her partners and associates. During this period, if any party is appearing without counsel, remittal is unavailable and the judge cannot preside. (2) For the first two years after the representation completely terminates, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, in all matters involving the individual attorney(s) who personally participated in the representation. For other partners and associates who did not personally assist in the representation, disclosure is mandated in lieu of outright disqualification during this period. Again, at this stage, if any party is appearing without counsel, the judge cannot preside. (3) After the two-year post-representation period, the judge’s continuing obligation to make a disclosure in matters involving the individual attorney(s) who personally participated in the representation depends on the particular facts and circumstances presented in each case. For other partners and associates who did not personally assist in the representation, the judge has no obligation to disclose or recuse.  NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 19-91 A full-time judge who presides in a dedicated guardianship part may seek the advice of attorneys regarding a Medicaid application and home care planning for the judge’s first-degree relative, even if those attorneys regularly appear before the judge. Provided the consultation is brief and preliminary in nature and the judge concludes he/she can be completely fair and impartial, the judge need not make any disclosure.

Opinion 19-27 A judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from presiding in a matter when an attorney from the law firm that currently represents the judge is a witness therein.

Opinion 18-84 A judge may not preside where a pending motion was prepared by a law firm representing the judge and his/her family in various litigated and transactional matters, even though the client has substituted new counsel. Remittal of the judge’s disqualification is not possible where a party is self-represented.  NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 18-42 (1) When an attorney prepares a last will and testament for a judge, and thereafter merely stores the executed original in a safe or safe deposit box pursuant to the attorney’s customary practice, the judge may treat the representation as concluded once all legal work is completed and all fees are fully paid. (2) Where the representation involved simple reciprocal last wills and testaments for the judge and his/her spouse, and four years have elapsed since the representation concluded, the judge may preside in matters involving the attorney and his/her associates as long as he/she can be fair and impartial. Disclosure is left entirely to the judge’s discretion.

Opinion 17-111 A judge may preside over matters involving his/her former matrimonial counsel where the representation was brief and preliminary.

Opinion 17-76 A judge must disqualify him/herself in cases involving a law firm that is representing the judge's first-degree relative and former law partner in a disciplinary investigation of their joint IOLA account. Remittal is not available unless the judge can fully disclose the fact and nature of the representation, and how it affects the judge's interests, without violating his/her relative's right to confidentiality.

Opinion 17-67 A judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all matters involving an attorney who was hired by the judge's second-degree relative to pursue litigation concerning real property in which the judge has an interest. This obligation continues for two years after the representation completely terminates.

Opinion 16-30 Where the new Public Defender preliminarily and briefly represented a judge in a disciplinary proceeding one year ago as a private attorney, the judge may continue to preside over matters involving assistant public defenders, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. The judge need not disclose the prior, non-substantive representation when the assistant public defenders appear.

Opinion 15-114 May a judge preside over a case involving the law firm of an attorney who represented the judge at a negotiation session in the judge's matrimonial matter, where the attorney now appearing before judge was completely insulated from any involvement in the judge's matrimonial matter? Is disclosure required? 

Opinion 12-110 May a part-time judge ... (2) preside over cases in which the assistant public defender is an attorney who previously represented the judge?

Opinion 12-12 A town justice who, in his/her official capacity, consulted the town attorney about a subpoena the judge received is not disqualified from presiding when the town attorney appears in his/her court once the subpoena is no longer outstanding and the representation is concluded.

Opinion 10-56 A judge’s continuing obligation to disclose when the judge’s personal attorney appears before him/her more than two years after the representation ended depends on the particular facts and circumstances presented in each case.

Opinion 09-141 A judge whose insurance company has assigned a law firm to litigate a case involving the judge must disqualify him/herself when the litigating attorney, another attorney assisting the litigating attorney, or the litigating attorney’s partners and associates appear in the judge’s court. The judge’s disqualification is subject to remittal.

Opinion 09-138 A judge must disqualify him/herself when an attorney from the law firm that represents the judge in private business matters appears in the judge’s court. The judge’s disqualification is subject to remittal unless a party is unrepresented. [NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.]

Opinion 09-95 Where a judge was represented by a particular law firm in a disciplinary matter, must a judge disqualify in matters involving an attorney who was once a partner in the firm, but left before the firm undertook the judge's representation?

Opinion 09-45 What are a judge's obligations with respect to the partner or associate of an attorney who personally represented the judge on a matter that is now concluded?

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Conflicts - Seeking Post-Judicial Employment

Opinion 21-156 A full-time judge may apply for an appointment as a federal administrative law judge and go through background checks and salary negotiations prior to acceptance of an offer. The judge may continue to serve in the state judiciary post-acceptance until the day before starting work as administrative law judge.

Opinion 20-176 A full-time judge may seek post-retirement listing on an ADR Provider’s roster. The judge need not disclose or disqualify in matters involving the “appeal” of decisions made by the ADR Provider’s special masters unless the ADR Provider itself appears or has a financial interest in the outcome of the proceeding.

Opinion 17-93 May a judge who applied for employment with the local District Attorney's office preside in cases involving that office if he/she is not selected for the position or declines to take it?

Opinion 17-27 May a full-time trial-level judge have discussions with various public and private entities concerning potential post-judicial employment? After leaving the bench, may the judge appear before former colleagues?

Opinion 14-131 (1) A judge who has received an unsolicited inquiry from a law firm’s recruitment director concerning post-judicial employment, but does not wish to explore the possibility of employment with the firm, may continue to preside over the firm’s cases and has no obligation to disclose the communication. (2) If the judge concludes that the law firm was not thereby attempting to unduly influence the judge’s judicial decisions and that the conduct does not otherwise seriously call into question an attorney’s honesty, fitness, or trustworthiness as a lawyer, the judge need not report the conduct to a disciplinary authority.

Opinion 13-36 A judge presiding in a criminal part may seek post-retirement employment with a not-for-profit organization that provides training and support services to prosecutors. Provided that the judge can be fair and impartial, the judge’s employment application will not by itself require disclosure or disqualification in a criminal matter unless the prospective employer is appearing or participating in the matter.

Opinion 13-30 May a judge preside in matters involving the local housing authority after formally interviewing with the trustees of the housing authority for the position of executive director, where the judge has already notified the chairperson that he/she no longer wishes to be considered for the position?

Opinion 05-35/10-78 (1) A judge planning for retirement may seek future employment with law firms, governmental agencies or educational institutions, but must refrain from using official stationery or resources in soliciting potential future employers. (2) A judge who has a preliminary, informational meeting with members of a law firm to gather information about possible post-retirement employment, but who has neither actively pursued nor been offered a position at the firm, need not disqualify him/herself when the law firm subsequently appears in the judge’s court as long as the judge believes that he/she can be impartial. (3) Whether disqualification is required when the law firm later makes an offer of employment, but no employment relationship results, depends on the specific circumstances of the negotiations.

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Conflicts - Judge's Business or Financial Interests; Judge's Current Partners and Current Clients; Judge’s Outside Employment

Opinion 21-178    A town justice may not simultaneously serve as the director of a non-profit civil legal services agency where the judge’s responsibilities include overseeing attorneys and advocates who are likely to appear in the judge’s court in summary eviction proceedings.

Opinion 21-173    A town justice may not accept employment as confidential secretary to the county sheriff, where the court’s calendar includes a substantial number of tickets issued by the sheriff’s deputies.

Opinion 21-156    A full-time judge may apply for an appointment as a federal administrative law judge and go through background checks and salary negotiations prior to acceptance of an offer. The judge may continue to serve in the state judiciary post-acceptance until the day before starting work as administrative law judge.

Opinion 21-154    A full-time judge (1) may hold shares in a family-held limited liability company that owns real estate, and participate in management of the company’s real estate investment, but (2) must not manage, operate, or otherwise actively participate in a family-held bar business that operates on the company’s real estate.

Opinion 21-148    May a part-time city judge simultaneously serve as an assistant county attorney handling child welfare matters?

Opinion 21-126    May a part-time village justice accept employment as secretary to the town supervisor of a nearby town?  

Opinion 21-110 Where proceedings involving the town, its highway department, or the highway department's employees are very rare in the town court, a town justice may represent the town in collective bargaining negotiations with the union representing the town's highway department personnel. However, the judge must disqualify in all matters where the town is a party both for the duration of the representation and for two years after it completely ends.

Opinion 21-76 Where a part-time town justice’s law firm has a referral relationship with an attorney, the judge is disqualified from all cases in which that attorney appears for two years from the date their business relationship is completely terminated. However, the disqualification is subject to remittal after full disclosure, even if a party is proceeding without counsel.

Opinion 21-63 Where a town justice serves as village attorney for a village which is wholly encompassed within the town where the justice presides, and the village retains a completely independent special prosecutor to handle all village court matters, the vast majority of which involve parking violations, the town justice may continue to serve as village attorney after the village court is abolished. However, the town justice may not preside in cases where the village is a party; if this results in frequent disqualifications, the justice must choose between the positions of town justice and village attorney.

Opinion 21-60 A part-time lawyer judge may serve as an assistant public defender in another county, but must not preside in any matter where another attorney from the same public defender’s office appears.

Opinion 21-22(B) (1) Where a full-time judge solely owns certain rental properties through a solely owned limited liability company, the judge: (a) may advertise those properties via social media or other lawful means, provided such advertisements do not mention the judge’s judicial status; (b) need not prohibit current tenants from forwarding or sharing such advertisements; (c) may, to the extent permitted by law, enter into a business arrangement providing a current tenant with a rent credit for referring new tenants, again assuming the judge’s judicial status will not be referenced; (d) is disqualified, subject to remittal, from presiding over matters involving current tenants; and (e) may not appoint or re-appoint current tenants to positions such as assigned counsel or attorney for the child. (2) If the judge’s relationship with an attorney tenant results in frequent disqualifications, the judge must either terminate the landlord/tenant relationship or divest the investment.

Opinion 20-140 Where a judge’s law firm represents a non-supervisory assistant public defender at a real estate closing, may the judge thereafter preside in matters where that attorney or others from the same public defender’s office appear, once the matter is concluded?

Opinion 20-139 A court attorney-referee must disqualify him/herself in small claims real property tax assessment review proceedings that involve properties in his/her own neighborhood or in any other area of the town where a ruling might affect his/her own real property assessment. If any party is appearing without counsel, the disqualification is not subject to remittal. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 20-138 Where a judge rents an apartment to a not-for-profit organization that provides free transitional housing to homeless individuals, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, in matters involving a litigant who is currently residing in that apartment. If the judge’s tenant’s placements result in frequent disqualifications, the judge must terminate this landlord/tenant relationship or divest him/herself of the investment.

Opinion 20-110 (1) A part-time lawyer judge may serve as co-counsel on a matter with a private attorney who is a non-supervisory assistant conflict defender in the same county. (2) The judge may continue to preside in unrelated cases involving other attorneys from the conflict defender’s office, provided he/she can be fair and impartial, and disclosure is not required. (3) While the judge and attorney are serving as co-counsel on this case, and for two years after it completely terminates, the judge may not preside in matters involving the attorney unless he/she fully discloses the co-counsel relationship on the record. If any party is appearing without counsel, or if the judge doubts his/her own impartiality, the judge must simply disqualify him/herself. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 20-106 Where a judge's prior financial connection with a commercial real estate trust completely terminated over a decade ago, the judge may preside over a lawsuit in which a subsidiary of that trust is a party.

Opinion 20-07 A judge with an interest in unpaid fees separately shared by the judge’s former partner must disqualify, subject to remittal, in any matter where the former partner appears, for two years after final payment of those fees, but need not disclose or disqualify from matters handled by other attorneys from the same county department of social services where the former partner is now employed.

Opinion 19-170 On these facts, a judge’s impartiality cannot reasonably be questioned in matters involving an assistant public defender, merely because the judge, in his/her capacity as a college or university administrator, has some supervisory authority over the APD’s spouse on a multi-year grant-funded research project. The judge may thus continue to preside in matters involving the APD, provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial, and disclosure is not required.

Opinion 19-154 A judge who has a remittable conflict with the entire public defender’s office and whose first-degree relative and law partner are also assistant public defenders in that office: (1) may arraign indigent defendants from other local courts in the centralized arraignment part, provided they are represented by the conflict defender or assigned counsel at arraignment and the public defender’s office has not previously represented them in the matter; (2) is disqualified in cases transferred from the centralized arraignment part where the public defender’s office represented the defendant, but the disqualification is subject to remittal after full disclosure on the record unless the judge’s first-degree relative or law partner handled the arraignment; and (3) is disqualified from arraigning a defendant on a bench warrant issued by another local judge if the public defender’s office represents the defendant in the underlying matter, but the disqualification is subject to remittal after full disclosure on the record unless the judge’s first-degree relative or law partner is involved in the underlying matter.

Opinion 19-114 A part-time town justice may represent the town and a village contained within the town in federal court. However, he/she is then disqualified in matters where either client is a party. While the disqualification is subject to remittal, if the representation results in excessive disqualifications, the judge must choose between the two positions.

Opinion 19-31 Where the town attorney has become ‘of counsel’ to a town justice’s law firm, so that the town is now the law firm’s client, the judge is disqualified from presiding in all cases where the town is a party, including in town code enforcement cases. If there is any likelihood that town code cases will come before the court, the judge must resign from one of the two positions.

Opinion 19-07 A part-time town justice may be employed as a town trail maintenance worker, but must disqualify him/herself from cases in which his/her immediate supervisor or the department is a party, and from cases involving the trail. Remittal may be available.

Opinion 19-04 Must a town justice who also serves as an OCA approved transcriptionist disclose he/she has provided transcription services to attorneys when they appear before him/her?

Opinion 18-130 If the criteria of 22 NYCRR 36.1(b)(2)(I) are met, a full-time judge may allow a part-time judge to serve as a court-appointed guardian, and the part-time judge may so serve.

Opinion 18-129 A part-time lawyer judge who serves as an accessible magistrate must not accept appointment as attorney for the child in a case where he/she previously served as the arraigning judge but is not otherwise ethically barred from accepting appointments as attorney for the child in cases that originate in the youth part.

Opinion 18-103 Where a judge resides on a street owned by a golf course and has an ongoing financial relationship with other residents and the golf course to pay for street maintenance and repair costs, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal: (1) in all cases involving the golf course, for as long as the judge resides on the street or maintains the financial relationship with the golf course and (2) in all cases involving the neighbors who share in street maintenance, for as long as they maintain this financial relationship. The judge’s obligation ends once the business/financial relationship completely terminates. As always, remittal is not available if any party is appearing without counsel. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 18-80 (1) A town justice who has a business and financial relationship with an attorney is disqualified, subject to remittal, in matters involving him/her while the relationship is ongoing and for two years after it completely terminates. (2) A town justice need not prohibit an attorney from appearing before other judges of the town court, where the judge and the attorney maintain separate law practices and have completely severed the links between them that previously created an appearance that they were associated in the practice of law.

Opinion 18-75 Where a part-time attorney judge shares office space with the owner of an abstract company who performs administrative tasks for the judge in lieu of rent, the judge need not prohibit him/her from accepting employment as the part-time secretary to the county public defender, but must be careful to avoid any discussion of public defender’s cases with him/her. The judge may continue to preside in matters in which the public defender’s office appears, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 18-50 A part-time judge may not simultaneously serve as an assistant county attorney, where his/her specific responsibilities involve representation of the district attorney’s office, the public defender’s office and the sheriff’s department, all of whom regularly appear in the judge’s court.

Opinion 18-44(A) A judge need not recuse him/herself from matters involving a credit union in which the judge is a member and account holder.

Opinion 17-160 A part-time judge, a licensed life/health insurance broker, is disqualified, subject to remittal, in cases involving his/her policyholder customers until their mutual business/financial relationship totally ends.

Opinion 17-143 (1) A judge who co-owns real property with an attorney is disqualified, subject to remittal, from cases in which that attorney appears, for the duration of the co-ownership relationship and for two years after it completely terminates. (2) Where the co-ownership interest is not likely to result in frequent disqualification, the judge need not divest him/herself of the interest. (3) The judge may accept rent from an attorney tenant, but must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, for the duration of the landlord/tenant relationship. This obligation ends when the landlord/tenant relationship completely terminates. (4) Transfer of the judge's interest to his/her spouse or close family member slightly diminishes, but does not end, the judge's obligations: The judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when the attorney co-owner appears before the judge as an attorney or a party, but not when he/she appears as a witness. (5) Transfer of the judge's interest to a third party who is not a member of the judge's family constitutes divestment of the judge's interest. Thus, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, whenever the former co-owner appears for two years from the date the former co-ownership relationship completely terminates, meaning after the sale is complete and final payment has been made. After the two-year period, the judge has no further obligation.

Opinion 17-76 A judge must disqualify him/herself in cases involving a law firm that is representing the judge's first-degree relative and former law partner in a disciplinary investigation of their joint IOLA account. Remittal is not available unless the judge can fully disclose the fact and nature of the representation, and how it affects the judge's interests, without violating his/her relative's right to confidentiality.

Opinion 17-67 A judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all matters involving an attorney who was hired by the judge's second-degree relative to pursue litigation concerning real property in which the judge has an interest. This obligation continues for two years after the representation completely terminates.

Opinion 17-02 May a part-time city court judge serve as a part-time attorney with legal aid in another county? What restrictions apply?

Opinion 16-175 While a judge need not separately scrutinize all pleadings to determine whether his/her client is the issuing officer, the judge must not take a guilty plea, either by mail or in person, if the client's role as issuing officer is readily available, such as in those instances where the officer's name appears on the ticket.

Opinion 16-174 What are a village justice's obligations once a local probation officer is appointed to serve on the village board? Does it make a difference if they will also be on the same slate in an upcoming election?

Opinion 16-63 ... (3) A part-time attorney judge must prohibit his/her attorney tenant from practicing before any judge of his/her court if: they share a fax machine and fax number which is included in their respective stationery, or they cover court appearances for each other, or the judge’s receptionist answers phone calls for the tenant.

Opinion 16-24 A judge must disclose the ongoing relationship when an attorney appearing before the judge is currently holding money in escrow for the judge. If the escrowed funds are released without controversy, the disclosure obligation ends when the escrow arrangement terminates. Should controversy concerning the escrowed funds arise, then the judge must disqualify in matters involving the attorney for the duration of the controversy and for two years thereafter.

Opinion 15-169 Where a judge is receiving ongoing restitution installment payments from an individual, payable through a court-ordered intermediary organization, may the judge preside in unrelated cases where that entity's attorneys appear? Is disclosure required?

Opinion 15-155 A judge is not disqualified from presiding in a matter where the judge and his/her spouse own a de minimis interest in large corporations that are parties in the matter, nor need the judge disclose such de minimis interest(s), provided he/she can be fair and impartial. [Note: Please see Judiciary Law § 14: “No judge shall be deemed disqualified from passing upon any litigation before him because of his ownership of shares of stock or other securities of a corporate litigant, provided that the parties, by their attorneys, in writing, or in open court upon the record, waive any claim as to disqualification of the judge.”]

Opinion 15-151  A village justice may continue as a client of a salesperson whose spouse is the village prosecutor. Unless the relationship is substantially more than an ordinary salesperson-customer relationship, the judge may preside over cases where the salesperson’s spouse appears as village prosecutor without disclosure or disqualification, provided the judge can remain fair and impartial.

Opinion 15-142 A part-time town judge who is also executor of an estate that owns real property within the town may retain counsel and petition the town for approval of the beneficiaries’ requested subdivision of the property. Provided the judge can be fair and impartial, the judge may preside when assistant town attorneys who do not participate in the town’s zoning and subdivision matters appear before the judge, and disclosure is not required.

Opinion 15-96 (1) The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not prohibit a judge from receiving, as part of an equitable distribution, a percentage of the future legal fees earned by his/her former spouse upon the settlement or verdict of any cases deemed part of the former spouse's law practice. (2) When the opposing counsel, from one of the cases which may be subject to the ongoing equitable distribution, appears before the judge in an unrelated matter, the judge may preside after making full disclosure.

Opinion 15-95 What is a judge's ethical obligation when the judge's insurance company, which recently represented the interests of the judge or the judge's first degree relative in two civil actions, appears before the judge?

Opinion 15-86 The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not require disclosure or disqualification solely because an attorney appearing before a part-time lawyer judge is the sibling of the judge’s law firm associate.

Opinion 15-59 A part-time judge who also works for a financial institution need not disqualify him/herself when his/her non-judicial employer’s landlord appears in his/her court.

Opinion 15-51 A full-time judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when a client or former client of the judge’s former law firm appears before the judge. This obligation continues until two years after the financial relationship between the judge and the former firm completely ends, including return of any distributed capital to the judge. After that period, the judge has no further obligation with respect to the former client; the decision of whether to disclose or recuse is confined solely to the judge’s discretion after considering all relevant factors. [Note: Modified by Opinion 18-118.]

Opinion 15-46 A judge, whose real estate purchase contract recently terminated by its terms without a resulting sale, may preside in search warrant applications in which the prospective seller appears, absent any other disqualifying factor and assuming the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 15-32 A judge who is a resident shareholder and proprietary lessee in a cooperative housing corporation is disqualified, subject to remittal, from tax certiorari cases involving the judge’s own building or housing corporation, but may preside in other tax certiorari cases brought by the same law firm on behalf of other clients. [Note: Modified by Opinion 19-144, which states: “Consistent with this opinion, we hereby modify Opinion 15-32 to require disclosure when a law firm representing the judge’s building or housing corporation appears on behalf of other clients.”]

Opinion 15-02 A judge is disqualified in DWI cases involving blood drawn at a hospital where, in the judge’s capacity as a physician, he/she is responsible for regulatory compliance with the hospital’s emergency department phlebotomy services.

Opinion 14-194 May a part-time judge preside when the attorney with whom the judge shares office space appears in the judge's court?

Opinion 14-188 A part-time judge who is represented by a union in his/her full-time extra-judicial employment, may preside in a small claims proceeding involving another local of the same union.

Opinion 14-157 A part-time judge who provides advice to certain municipal attorneys on municipal issues in the judge’s capacity as counsel to a nongovernmental association, but who has no attorney/client relationship with such attorneys, may preside in unrelated cases when such attorneys appear on behalf of private clients.

Opinion 14-14 Is it ethically permissible for a judge to preside when members of the Public Defender's office appear before the judge when the Public Defender and the judge are co-counsel in another court?

Opinion 14-13 Under the unique facts presented, a judge who sold his/her former law office telephone number to an attorney for a lump sum must disclose the business transaction when the purchasing attorney appears before the judge, for a one-year period following receipt of payment.

Opinion 13-182 A part-time judge who also serves as a full-time principal law clerk to Judge B (1) may preside in cases where another part-time attorney judge, other than a co-judge, appears; but (2) is disqualified, subject to remittal, from cases where Judge B’s sibling appears.

Opinion 13-177 Provided the judge can remain fair and impartial and absent any other factor requiring disqualification, a part-time town or village justice who also serves as a county court judge’s law clerk may continue to preside in matters that involve legal issues the county court judge has addressed in an appellate capacity.

Opinion 13-162 A judge who co-owns a rental building with an attorney may not preside over matters in which his/her co-owner appears, unless there is remittal of disqualification. 

Opinion 13-65 (1) Must a judge disqualify him/herself from all cases involving the [County] Sheriff's Office because the judge’s spouse is a Sergeant with the [County] Sheriff's Office Road Patrol? (2) Must a judge disqualify him/herself from certain "dangerous dog" cases and "civil cases involving damage from dogs" as a result of the judge’s outside employment with a health department's rabies prevention and treatment program?

Opinion 13-51/13-169 A judge is disqualified, subject to remittal where available, from presiding over matters involving a governmental entity that administers the judge’s tenant’s rent subsidy. However, the judge is not disqualified for that reason when other municipal departments appear in the judge’s court. 

Opinion 13-44 A judge who previously served on a few occasions as a part-time prosecutor by designation is not required to disclose in criminal matters that his/her designation by the local district attorney was revoked without explanation following unrelated media criticism of the latter prosecutor.

Opinion 12-134 May a judge continue to serve as town justice if the town retains the judge's firm to represent the town in a state or federal court action?

Opinion 12-92 Under the circumstances presented, a part-time attorney-judge may represent the board of directors of a large homeowners' association which is located within the geographic jurisdiction of the judge's court. The judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when individual board members or the association itself appear before the judge, but not when individual homeowners or community residents appear before the judge.

Opinion 12-32 A part-time judge may operate a business as a certified forensic science expert provided that (1) the judge does not perform such services in any case in the judge's court's jurisdiction; (2) he/she undertakes no assignments for the New York State Police or other agencies that frequently appear in his/her court; and (3) the judge disqualifies him/herself whenever an attorney for whom the judge is performing or has performed such services or from whom the judge has recently solicited such work, appears in the judge's court and for two years after any such services conclude and all fees are paid.

Opinion 12-24 A judge paid to be a sports referee for certain educational entities, as an independent contractor selected and retained by the board of education's subcontractor, from a list of independently certified referees, may preside when the board appears, if the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 12-19 A part-time judge may personally market a software product that includes course materials the judge develops for continuing legal education programs to attorneys or law firm staff, provided that the judge does not exploit his/her judicial position in marketing the product. Absent other factors, the judge is not disqualified from presiding over matters involving law firms that have purchased the judge's software product unless the judge doubts his/her ability to remain impartial.

Opinion 12-08 May a part-time attorney judge preside in a matter involving an attorney from a firm to which the judge’s firm referred a criminal matter and which firm referred several civil matters to the judge’s firm, where these matters were all completely resolved more than two years ago and there are no outstanding fee claims?

Opinion 11-89 A part-time judge who rents office space within the judge’s private law office suite to another attorney and shares a fax line and high-speed copier with the attorney, where there is no indication that they are in any way associated in the private practice of law, need not prohibit his/her tenant from using his/her fax line or from appearing before other judges of the inquiring judge’s court, but is disqualified, subject to remittal, when the tenant/attorney appears before the judge.

Opinion 11-72(A) May a judge preside over matters involving a law firm with which the judge previously shared office space and which also currently provides personal legal services to the judge’s law clerk?

Opinion 11-52 Where a part-time attorney judge has exchanged referrals of two cases with an attorney who otherwise maintains their own independent legal practice, may the judge preside in cases involving that attorney? Is the attorney considered an “associate” of the judge for purposes of Section 100.6(B)(3)?

Opinion 11-11 A part-time non-lawyer judge may accept employment with a private security firm to work as a “security guard” at a warehouse located within the geographic jurisdiction of the judge’s court where the position would not confer peace officer status and the judge would have no authority to make arrests, provided that the judge disqualifies him/herself from any proceeding that involves the security firm or the warehouse and further provided that the position does not interfere with the proper performance of the judge’s judicial duties.

Opinion 10-203(B) (1) A judge may continue to serve as trustee of a trust that benefits the judge’s first cousin; (2) A judge may be a member with his/her siblings of an LLC that will own several pieces of real estate; (3) A judge must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, when an attorney from the judge’s former law firm appears in the judge’s court for two years after the judge’s employment with his/her former law firm ends or until the landlord/tenant relationship between the judge and his/her former law firm ends, whichever occurs later.

Opinion 10-162 A part-time judge who rents office space to an attorney is disqualified when that attorney appears before the landlord/judge.

Opinion 10-160 A part-time town justice who recently provided funeral services to an attorney should fully disclose that he/she did so whenever the attorney appears in the judge’s court for two years after the funeral bill is paid. If all parties are represented by counsel, and after affording the parties and their attorneys the opportunity to be heard, the judge must exercise his/her discretion in deciding whether to disqualify him/herself. If any party in the matter is self-represented, the judge must disqualify him/herself during this two-year period. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 10-126 When a judge is temporarily assigned to serve in a City Court pursuant to Section 107 of the Uniform City Court Act, the judge’s partners and associates may continue to appear before all other judges of the City Court, unless there is a reason other than their colleague’s temporary assignment to the City Court which would preclude them from doing so.

Opinion 10-37 A town justice who owns shares in a corporation that leases office space to the same town in which the judge presides must disqualify him/herself when the town appears in the judge’s court or, if the need for disqualification is frequent, must divest him/herself of the ownership interest in the corporation.

Opinion 09-233 A part-time lawyer-judge who owns a building and rents space to four other businesses, including two attorneys, may not permit the attorneys to appear before either judge in the judge’s court because the attorneys are the judge’s tenants and they share a fax machine and number with the judge.

Opinion 09-128 A part-time judge whose law firm associate is village attorney to the same village where the judge presides and whose firm is special counsel to the same village where the judge presides is disqualified from presiding in all cases where the village is a party. The judge may not transfer all such matters to his/her co-judge or another court solely for the purpose of permitting his/her law firm to continue serving as special counsel and his/her associate to continue serving as village attorney. Consequently, if the judge must disqualify him/herself so frequently that his/her membership in the law firm interferes with the performance of his/her judicial duties, the judge must resign from one of the two positions. [NOTE: Modified by Opinion 19-31, which states that "a village justice whose law firm associate is the village attorney and whose firm is special counsel to the village, must either resign from the firm or resign his/her judgeship if there is any likelihood that village code matters will come before the court."]

Opinion 09-123/09-143 Except as otherwise provided by the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, a part-time lawyer judge may serve as the defense attorney in cases that are prosecuted by the same assistant district attorney who serves as the prosecutor in the part-time lawyer judge’s court.

Opinion 09-101 A part-time town justice who owns an automotive towing service should not accept referrals for towing services from law enforcement agencies that appear in the justice's court, and should disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, in proceedings arising from incidents where the judge's towing service was used.

Opinion 09-78 A part-time lawyer judge who represents a local police officer in a personal matter is not disqualified from presiding over cases in which the police officer/client’s fellow officers appear.

Opinion 09-65/09-67 A part-time lawyer judge who shares office space with another attorney or law firm, and any other judge who presides in the same court as the part-time lawyer, must prohibit the other attorney or members of the law firm from appearing in the court. [NOTE: Mostly overruled by Opinion 09-100.]

Opinion 09-36 A part-time town judge may accept employment as an account manager for a health insurance broker that services the town in which the judge presides as long as the judge is not involved in any matters concerning his/her town and the employment does not interfere with the judge’s performance of his/her judicial duties. The judge must disqualify him/herself in any matter involving his/her employer.

Opinion 09-19 A part-time lawyer judge who is a practicing attorney must disqualify him/herself in cases when a police sergeant currently represented by the judge’s law firm is called to testify before the judge. For two years after the representation is concluded, the disqualification is subject to remittal. Thereafter, the judge should disclose the former representation and disqualify him/herself upon request unless the judge concludes the objection lacks merit after considering all relevant factors. The judge need not disqualify him/herself when another officer appears who might be subject to the sergeant’s supervision. If the judge does learns the sergeant is involved in a case, the judge should disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal. [NOTE: Modified by Opinion 15-51, which says that, "once the two-year period elapses, it should be within the judge’s discretion whether to disclose that the judge or his/her former law firm colleagues represented a client who is currently before the judge as a litigant." ]

Opinion 09-03 A part-time judge who is not a lawyer, but who represents landlords in court proceedings pursuant to a Power of Attorney and also advises and assists “clients” about eviction proceedings, is subject to the same restrictions applicable to lawyer judges, both when he/she appears before other lawyer judges presiding in other courts in the same county where he/she presides and when he/she sits as the presiding judge.

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Conflicts - Judge's Election Campaign or Appointment

Opinion 21-120 A judge's obligation to disqualify in matters involving their former campaign manager terminates two years after the campaign manager relationship has ended.  Once the two-year period expires, the judge may preside in matters involving the former campaign manager, provided the judge can be fair and impartial, and disclosure is not required. Opinions 06-54 and 07-26 are overruled or modified to the extent inconsistent with this conclusion.

Opinion 20-159 A judge is not disqualified when the assistant town attorney appears before the judge, even if the attorney obtains the party’s endorsement and becomes a candidate for non-judicial office on the judge’s slate.

Opinion 19-148(B) ... (4) In matters involving the judge’s election opponent or the opponent’s law firm, clients, relatives, and supporters, disqualification is not required unless the judge, in his/her sole discretion after carefully considering all relevant factors, concludes his/her impartiality might reasonably be questioned or doubts his/her ability to be fair and impartial. (5) Where a lawyer not only supported the judge’s election opponent but also threatened and complained about the judge, disqualification is not required unless the judge, in his/her sole discretion, after carefully considering all relevant factors, concludes his/her impartiality might be reasonably questioned or doubts his/her ability to be fair and impartial.

Opinion 19-78 A judge need not disqualify when an attorney appearing before the judge was the judge’s election opponent in a now-concluded political campaign, during which the candidates challenged the sufficiency of each other’s nominating petitions.

Opinion 19-76 Neither disclosure nor disqualification is mandated solely because a political party’s county leader appears as an attorney before a judge who is currently seeking the party’s support for elective judicial office, provided the county leader is not playing an active and significant role within the judge’s campaign and the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 19-22 After Election Day, a judge may appoint an attorney who merely hosted a single campaign fund-raiser for the judge to a Part 36 position for which the attorney is qualified, provided the appointment is made impartially and on the basis of merit.

Opinion 18-102 Assuming he/she can be fair and impartial, a newly elected judge may preside in cases of a lawyer who (a) formerly served on the executive committee of the judge’s local political party providing social media and website help to the party’s entire slate of candidates and (b) is an acquaintance who does not socialize privately with the judge but only interacts with him/her as parents of very young children during play dates and birthday parties. On these facts, neither disclosure nor disqualification is required.

Opinion 18-35 (2) A judge’s obligation to disqualify him/herself from matters involving an attorney who has offered to host a single fund-raiser for the judge does not commence until invitations to the fund-raiser have been sent out. Once the invitations have been sent, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all matters involving the attorney and his/her partners and associates, during the election campaign. This obligation ends on Election Day.

Opinion 17-26 A newly-elected judge may preside in matters involving an attorney who participated in the absentee ballot review process following the general election, provided the attorney had no other involvement in the judge's campaign and did not advocate on the judge's behalf during the absentee ballot review process.

Opinion 16-174 What are a village justice's obligations once a local probation officer is appointed to serve on the village board? Does it make a difference if they will also be on the same slate in an upcoming election?

Opinion 16-168 Where two years have passed since the election, the judge may appoint his/her former campaign treasurer to serve as a referee in a foreclosure action.

Opinion 16-84 (1) A judge need not disqualify him/herself when an attorney, who previously represented the judge’s recent election opponent in an election law case, appears, provided the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial. (2) The judge’s prior discretionary recusal from a case involving the attorney does not require perpetual disqualification where the recusal was not mandated by the rules or prior opinions.

Opinion 16-14 What are a judge's obligations with respect to individuals who supported his/her election campaign in various capacities?

Opinion 15-207 May a judge preside over cases in which the judge's electoral opponent represents the county as prosecuting attorney?

Opinion 15-196 ... (2) Whether disclosure or disqualification obligations arise out of the relationship between a subsequently elected judge and an attorney who appeared in that judge’s campaign commercial depends also on any other facts that describe the nature of their relationship.

Opinion 15-168 May a judge preside when an attorney who served as a reference for the judge's judicial appointment appears before the judge more than two years after the appointment?

Opinion 15-55 Is disclosure required when an attorney appearing before the judge supported the judge's judicial candidacy at a judicial nominating convention nearly a decade ago?

Opinion 14-63 A city court judge who is appointed by a body of city officials that includes the mayor may preside in a case where the mayor, or the mayor’s relative, appears as an attorney representing a private party, provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 14-30 A judge who listed an attorney as a reference in the judge’s application for appointment or re-appointment need not disclose that fact and is not thereby disqualified from cases in which that attorney appears or that attorney’s partners and/or associates appear, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. The judge is not prohibited from appointing the attorney or his/her partners and/or associates to positions for which the attorney is eligible or his/her partners and/or associates are eligible, provided the judge exercises the power of appointment impartially and on the basis of merit.

Opinion 13-97 Must a judge exercise recusal in those cases in which the judge’s opponent in the upcoming election appears as an attorney?

Opinion 13-64 Although a judge is disqualified from presiding over matters involving his/her campaign treasurer’s law firm during the judge’s election campaign, the disqualification is subject to remittal.

Opinion 13-47 Absent additional factors, a judge is not disqualified solely because one of the litigants, in his/her capacity as a secretarial employee of a political party, answered the telephone when the judge called the political party’s headquarters to discuss his/her own candidacy during the applicable window period.

Opinion 12-164 (1) For two years after the election, a judge must disclose that an attorney appearing in the judge's court participated in the judge's prior judicial election campaign, where the attorney's participation was more than minimal, but not at the formal leadership level. The judge retains full discretion to disqualify him/herself or remain on the case if after any such disclosure, a party objects to the judge's continued involvement in the matter. (2) The disclosure obligation is personal to the individual attorney who participated in the judge's campaign and does not extend to his/her partners or associates.

Opinion 12-97 A judge or non-judge candidate for election to town or village justice may fully participate as a candidate in a local bar association's screening process, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial campaign speech. Thereafter, the judge may preside in a matter in which a member of the panel appears as an attorney, absent any disqualifying factor and assuming the judge can be impartial.

Opinion 12-38 Must a recently elected judge disqualify in a proceeding where close relatives of their election opponent appear as party litigants?

Opinion 12-28 Assuming a judge can be fair and impartial, the judge need not disqualify him/herself when a campaign advisor who was appointed by a county political committee to advise several candidates during a recent election, including the judge, appears before the judge as an attorney, where the advisor did not play an active, significant or pivotal role in the judge's campaign.

Opinion 11-76 May a judge preside in matters where the judge’s current election opponent appears as special traffic prosecutor?

Opinion 11-64 A judge who recently appeared before a judicial screening panel may preside in a matter in which a member of the panel appears as an attorney, in the absence of any other disqualifying factor and assuming the judge can be impartial.

Opinion 10-135 If a judge believes that he/she can be impartial, the judge need not disqualify him/herself where ... (3) the judge learns the identity of campaign donors from a plaintiff’s motion papers.

Opinion 10-121 A judge who is a candidate for judicial office should disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, from presiding in a case when an attorney who is a member of a political party’s candidate screening panel subcommittee that reviewed the judge’s application for the political party’s endorsement also is a partner in the plaintiff/law firm in the case.

Opinion 10-96 A judge should disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, while the judge is negotiating a mortgage loan with a bank that also may be the undisclosed seller of the property the judge is buying when the bank or a subsidiary of the bank appears in the judge’s court.

Opinion 10-94 (1) Where an attorney pays for space in an attorney town justice’s law office by performing legal work for the part-time justice’s law firm, and the said attorney town justice includes the attorney on the justice’s malpractice insurance coverage in exchange for a percentage of any fees the attorney earns, the attorney is the town justice’s associate and thus may not appear in the attorney town justice’s court either before him/her or his/her co-judge(s). (2) Absent any other disqualifying factors, an attorney town justice’s associate is not prohibited from appearing before the town zoning board or participating in other town administrative proceedings in the same town where the town justice presides. (3) An attorney who is an attorney town justice’s associate may appear on behalf of the justice’s clients or the attorney’s own clients in other justice courts in the same county where the town justice presides before both attorney and non-attorney justices.

Opinion 09-245 Where an attorney’s participation in a judge’s election campaign is more than minimal, but not at the formal leadership level, the judge need not disqualify him/herself when the attorney appears in the judge’s court if the judge can be impartial. However, for two years after the election, the judge should disclose the nature and extent of the attorney's involvement in the judge's campaign when the attorney appears. If a party objects to the judge’s continued involvement in the matter, disqualification is left to the judge’s discretion.

Opinion 09-60 Assuming it is legal to do so, a judge who is subject to §36.1(a)(11) of the Rules of the Chief Judge concerning appointments by the court may permit a public administrator who practices law with the judge’s former campaign treasurer to remain in office and is not required to disclose the public administrator’s relationship to the judge’s former campaign treasurer.

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Conflicts - Judge's Prior Judicial Decisions or Actions

Opinion 20-163 (1) Provided the Surrogate can be fair and impartial, they need not disqualify in matters involving the Public Administrator’s office merely because (a) they relieved the PA of certain duties and (b) the PA thereafter commenced an Article 78 proceeding and filed complaints with an anti-discrimination agency and the Commission on Judicial Conduct. (2) The Surrogate need not disqualify while the Commission is investigating the PA’s complaint, but if the Commission formally charges the Surrogate with misconduct in a formal written complaint, the Surrogate must disqualify from matters involving the PA’s office.

Opinion 19-49 A judge who previously ‘so ordered’ the parties’ settlement stipulation may thereafter preside in an application to enforce the stipulation and at an evidentiary hearing to resolve possible contractual ambiguities, where the judge has no extra-judicial knowledge of the parties’ intentions and believes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 18-104 A judge may preside in a custody case and a neglect proceeding involving one family, even where the neglect petition alleges one parent made a false report about the other parent’s conduct in open court before the inquiring judge, if the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial in each case.

Opinion 18-51 ... (4) Does a judge’s effort to effectuate a criminal defendant’s right to counsel at arraignment (or at any other time where the defendant’s civil liberties are impacted) automatically create an impermissible appearance of partiality or otherwise disqualify the judge from presiding in the case? (5) May the judge preside over an arraignment if a “good faith effort” is made to find counsel but no attorney is available? (6) May the judge refuse to proceed with an arraignment if a defendant is not represented by counsel during the arraignment?

Opinion 17-130 May a judge preside in a criminal case where the complainant is an assistant district attorney who has occasionally appeared as a prosecutor before the judge?

Opinion 16-43 Provided the judge can be fair and impartial, a criminal court judge who presided over an ex parte search warrant application may later arraign (1) a confidential informant who testified in support of the warrant and/or (2) the target of the search warrant. Neither disclosure nor disqualification is required.

Opinion 16-16 A judge who presided over two related civil actions may preside over the losing party’s subsequent malpractice action against its former counsel, only if the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 15-228 A judge who presides over a re-adoption proceeding involving an attorney with whom the judge has an acquaintance-level relationship has no obligation to disclose the relationship or disqualify him/herself in matters involving the attorney or his/her law firm, if the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 15-195 A Family Court judge who ordered a child protective investigation in a case is not disqualified from presiding over other contested proceedings involving the same family.

Opinion 14-168 May a judge preside in two family court matters involving the same parties?

Opinion 14-62 A judge may preside over a case where a party currently appearing before him/her is also an attorney who regularly appears before the judge, provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial. The judge does not thereby incur any obligation to disclose or disqualify him/herself in other matters in which the attorney or his/her law firm appears.

Opinion 12-117 A judge, who determined that the only remaining issues in a civil matter should be heard in another part of the court and advised the parties that it must be re-filed as a new action, need not disqualify him/herself from thereafter presiding in the new action where the judge has no personal bias or prejudice concerning a party and the judge's participation does not otherwise create an appearance of impropriety.

Opinion 12-104 A judge (1) may solemnize the marriage of an attorney who regularly appears before the judge; and (2) will not, on that sole basis, incur any new or additional disclosure obligations.

Opinion 12-78 A judge who granted a criminal defendant's post-trial motion to set aside a jury's guilty verdict need not disqualify him/herself from presiding over the new trial, unless the judge questions his/her own ability to be impartial.

Opinion 12-50 Must a judge disqualify from hearing and deciding a contempt application against a defendant, where (1) the application was brought two days before the judge's scheduled visit, pursuant to court mandate, to the correctional facility in which the defendant was incarcerated and (2) the superintendent who conducted the tour was called as a witness against the defendant at the contempt hearing?

Opinion 11-135 A judge who served on an ad hoc committee that advised court administrators on the proposed wording of a form need not disqualify him/herself in a case where a litigant has challenged the court administrators’ authority to issue rules pertaining to use of the form.

Opinion 10-70 A judge who recently presided over a jury trial during which he/she individually questioned prospective jurors during the voir dire and, after declaring a mistrial, thanked each juror individually for his/her service is not disqualified from presiding over an unrelated case in which a party is one of the jurors who served in the earlier case and need not disclose the party’s prior jury service.

Opinion 09-172/10-31 (1) A criminal court judge who testified as a fact witness in a different court on behalf of a criminal defendant’s adversary about the criminal defendant’s physical condition at arraignment may continue to preside in the pending criminal matter involving the same defendant, unless the judge believes that he/she cannot be impartial. (2) A judge presiding in a Family Court proceeding who learns that a party has been charged with forging the judge’s signature on an order and signs an affidavit indicating that the signature on the order is not his/hers need not disqualify him/herself from the Family Court proceeding, unless the judge believes that he/she cannot be impartial.

Opinion 09-239 A judge need not disqualify him/herself when an attorney, who appears in the judge’s court, previously testified as a witness in an unrelated proceeding in the judge’s court and whose credibility the judge had to assess in reaching a decision, as long as the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial. Also, the inquiring judge may not permit his/her co-judge’s law practice associates to practice before the inquiring judge.

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Conflicts - Disciplinary Complaints; Lawsuits; Criticism

Subtopics: Complaints, Lawsuits, and Threats AGAINST the Judge (Official Capacity) | Complaints Made BY the Judge | Lawsuits / Judge as Litigant (adversaries, adverse counsel, etc.)

Complaints AGAINST the Judge (in the judge's official capacity); Judicial Threats 

Opinion 21-176    Where the court’s chief clerk has filed a criminal complaint against a litigant for making threats against the clerk, whether the judge must recuse from the litigant’s pending matters is a discretionary decision to be guided by the judge’s conscience.

Opinion 21-59(B) Provided the judge can be fair and impartial, a judge who was publicly censured by the Commission on Judicial Conduct more than two years ago may preside in matters involving individuals who had testified on the judge’s behalf in the disciplinary proceeding. Disclosure is left to the judge’s discretion.

Opinion 20-163 (1) Provided the Surrogate can be fair and impartial, they need not disqualify in matters involving the Public Administrator’s office merely because (a) they relieved the PA of certain duties and (b) the PA thereafter commenced an Article 78 proceeding and filed complaints with an anti-discrimination agency and the Commission on Judicial Conduct. (2) The Surrogate need not disqualify while the Commission is investigating the PA’s complaint, but if the Commission formally charges the Surrogate with misconduct in a formal written complaint, the Surrogate must disqualify from matters involving the PA’s office.

Opinion 20-34/20-35 (1) Where a local attorney’s paralegal filed a disciplinary complaint against a judge, but the Commission on Judicial Conduct has not issued a formal written complaint, the judge need not disqualify him/herself from matters involving the complainant or his/her employer, provided he/she can be fair and impartial. (2) If the Commission formally charges the judge with misconduct in a formal written complaint, the judge (a) must disqualify him/herself from matters in which the complainant appears; but (b) need not otherwise disqualify him/herself from matters involving the complainant’s attorney employer, where the judge is satisfied the attorney did not participate in making the complaint and the paralegal’s name does not appear on the papers and is unlikely to be present in the courtroom, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. (3) The judge need not disclose the disciplinary complaint, whether or not recusal is required.

Opinion 20-22 Where a disciplinary proceeding resulting solely from a complaint filed by the District Attorney results in public censure on undisputed facts, the judge must continue to disqualify him/herself from all matters involving the District Attorney’s office for two years. During this period, the judge’s disqualification is subject to remittal in matters where defendants are represented by counsel, provided the judge (a) concludes he/she can be fair and impartial and (b) strictly complies with all requirements for remittal.

Opinion 20-09 A judge’s concern that the Public Defender will criticize and attack him/her personally and professionally does not necessitate recusal from all matters involving the Public Defender’s office.

Opinion 19-81 May a judge continue to preside in a criminal action where the defendant, a self-identified sovereign citizen, is attempting to file a fraudulent lien against the judge and has threatened to accuse the judge of treason if he/she does not protect what the defendant regards as his/her rights?

Opinion 19-35 Where an attorney who practices in a specialized part manifests extremely rude, malicious, and belligerent behavior that, if true, appears to raise serious concerns about the attorney’s fitness to practice law: ... (2) the attorney’s threats and complaints, without more, do not require any judge to disqualify him/herself, as long as that judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial; (3) a judge who questions his/her own ability to be fair and impartial in matters involving the attorney must disqualify him/herself from the attorney’s cases, and remittal is not available; ... .

Opinion 18-43 (1) A judge is not disqualified merely because a litigant’s lawyer sent a complaint to the Commission on Judicial Conduct and copied the judge, if the Commission itself has not issued a formal written complaint, and the judge decides he/she can remain fair and impartial. (2) Where the complaint was sent to the judge ex parte, but all disputed information on the merits is on the record and known to counsel and parties, the judge need not disclose the ex parte letter if he/she is confident he/she can decide the case impartially without considering it.

Opinion 17-138 Where a litigant has provided a judge with a copy of a purported disciplinary complaint but the Commission on Judicial Conduct has not contacted the judge about any pending investigation or complaint, the judge may presume no investigation or complaint is now pending.

Opinion 17-109 A judge who has received a copy of a disciplinary complaint letter filed by a litigant's relative against opposing counsel, but has not read the substance of the letter, has no obligation to disclose the communication. The judge may continue to preside over the case provided the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 17-17 Where an attorney has unsuccessfully sought the judge's recusal in one case, and then filed a disciplinary complaint against a judge for declining to recuse, does the judge have an ongoing conflict with the attorney's law firm mandating the judge's recusal in all cases involving that law firm?

Opinion 17-05 May a judge continue to preside in a contentious post-judgment matrimonial proceeding after a party, whom the judge previously sanctioned, has sued the judge and others involved in the proceeding for defamation?

Opinion 16-141 Where the Commission on Judicial Conduct has charged a judge with misconduct in a formal written complaint, signed and verified by the Commission's administrator (see Judiciary Law § 44[4]), based on an initial report or complaint filed by the county's District Attorney, may the judge thereafter preside in criminal matters involving the District Attorney's office? The judge notes that an assistant district attorney usually appears on behalf of the office, and there may be no personal appearance by the DA or any ADA in matters such as mail pleas or negotiated resolutions of traffic matters. The judge further notes that the Commission on Judicial Conduct has not directed that a hearing be held.

Opinion 16-129 A judge need not disqualify him/herself in a criminal case merely because the defendant, defense witness(es) and/or other individuals connected with the defense have filed complaints against the judge, provided the Commission on Judicial Conduct has not issued a formal written complaint and the judge can remain fair and impartial.

Opinion 16-126 May a judge continue presiding in a criminal trial after the defendant commences a lawsuit naming the judge in his/her "official and individual capacity" for a claimed civil rights violation? Does it matter whether the defendant also sent these legal filings to a high-ranking prosecutor?

Opinion 16-11 A judge who is a defendant in a bank’s foreclosure action in an individual and fiduciary capacity may nonetheless preside over an unrelated action in which a party has subpoenaed records from the bank, including a party’s motions to quash the subpoena, provided the bank is not a party to the action before the judge but is only a stakeholder which has not appeared or taken a position regarding the subpoena.

Opinion 15-218 A judge is not disqualified from presiding over a criminal case merely because the District Attorney has launched a collateral attack on the judge’s pretrial rulings in another forum.

Opinion 15-37 A judge who has been publicly disciplined as a result of complaints made by the local prosecutor’s office and the local public defender’s office is disqualified from presiding in matters in which attorneys from these offices appear, for two years from the date of the published disciplinary decision.

Opinion 14-189 Under the specific circumstances presented, where a judge has issued a written decision indicating the judge’s impartiality has been compromised in a new case involving a particular litigant, based on the litigant’s recent disparaging remarks about the judge in connection with a recently concluded case, the judge must disqualify him/herself from all cases involving the litigant, including in any post-judgment proceedings in the recently concluded case, and the disqualification is not subject to remittal.

Opinion 14-128 May a judge continue to preside over a criminal case where the defendant has previously caused a mistrial by telephoning the court purporting to be a trial juror; caused a delay in the trial by feigning a heart attack; and now has indicated his/her intention to commence an action against the judge, apparently in an effort to secure the judge’s disqualification before the judge can impose sentence?

Opinion 14-121 A judge who chose to recuse him/herself in one case after a litigant filed a complaint about the judge may nonetheless preside over other cases in which that litigant appears, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 14-105 May a judge continue to preside over a criminal case, where the defendant, who identifies him/herself as a member of the Sovereign Citizens group, has commenced a lawsuit against the judge and other public officials and agencies?

Opinion 14-58 When a pro se criminal defendant files a multi-million dollar lien against a judge’s property and the sole basis for the lien filing is the judge’s performance of his/her official judicial duties: (1) the judge may take all lawful steps necessary to clear his/her title and may pursue all lawful avenues to put an end to the vexatious lien filing; (2) it is not unethical for the judge to use the court’s clerical and other resources to assist in preparing a pro se expungement proceeding; and (3) the judge may continue to preside in the criminal case, provided the judge determines he/she can be fair and impartial, a matter confined solely to the conscience of the particular judge.

Opinion 14-55 A judge who is called as a witness in a criminal case concerning threats allegedly made against the judge may continue to preside over unrelated matters involving the attorneys who are prosecuting or defending that criminal case, provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial in the matters before him/her.

Opinion 13-75 Must a judge disqualify him/herself in a criminal case on learning that the defendant filed a complaint against the judge with the Commission on Judicial Conduct?

Opinion 13-41 A judge who is a defendant in federal court in his/her official capacity based on his/her prior judicial acts in a particular case (1) may continue to preside over any additional proceedings which come before him/her in the particular case, (2) may preside over other matters in which the judge’s federal court co-defendants or their counsel appear, and (3) is not precluded from appointing an attorney to Part 36 or other appointments merely because the judge and the attorney are co-defendants in the federal action.

Opinion 12-94 A judge who is named as defendant/respondent in a federal proceeding in his/her official capacity may preside over an unrelated criminal matter wherein the plaintiff/appellant appears as complainant, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 12-07 A judge who is a respondent in an Article 78 proceeding directed to the judge’s official role may preside in unrelated cases commenced by the same law office, unless the judge doubts his/her ability to be fair and impartial in the unrelated matter.

Opinion 12-01 A judge is not required to disclose that he/she consulted with court security personnel about possible security threats arising from a document admitted into evidence in a pending matter; and the judge may continue to preside over the matter as long as the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 11-86 Must a judge exercise recusal in a court proceeding in which one of the parties made threatening statements toward the judge and their family? Does it make a difference that the judge submitted an affirmation to the District Attorney in support of a criminal contempt charge against the litigant?

Opinion 10-69 A judge who is represented by the New York State Office of the Attorney General in a federal court case need not disqualify him/herself from an unrelated case in his/her court or disclose the representation where the Attorney General’s name appears in the caption of the unrelated case as “People by [Attorney General],” as long as the Attorney General is not directly or personally involved in the unrelated case and the assistant attorney general who is appearing in the judge’s court is not the same assistant attorney general who is currently representing the judge in federal court.

Opinion 09-191 A judge who was admonished by the Commission on Judicial Conduct, but who does not know the identity of the complainant, need not disclose that the disciplinary action occurred when an attorney who could be the complainant subsequently appears in the judge’s court; nor is the judge precluded from appointing such attorney to fiduciary positions for which the attorney otherwise qualifies.

Opinion 09-136 Where a judge does not know the identity of the complainant, the judge need not disqualify him/herself or disclose the disciplinary proceeding when one of several possible complainants appears as an attorney, and the judge is not precluded from appointing the attorney to serve as assigned counsel or attorney for the child or in any other fiduciary position.

Opinion 09-47(B) A judge who is a named defendant in a lawsuit where the cause of action is directed at the judge in his/her institutional capacity need not disqualify him/herself in an unrelated case where the attorney who commenced the lawsuit appears, unless the judge cannot be fair and impartial.

 

Complaints BY the Judge

[GENERAL NOTE: (1) As of June 2021, the Committee has not overruled its prior opinions prohibiting remittal, when the basis for disqualification is that the judge reported an attorney to the grievance committee.  (2) See Opinion 21-45 concerning an apparent dissonance between Judiciary Law § 9 and Judiciary Law § 90(10).] 

Opinion 21-107 Provided the judge can be fair and impartial, a judge need not disqualify from all cases involving a former opposing counsel, even though the judge had, as an attorney, criticized the opposing counsel's conduct in a letter to the tribunal.

Opinion 21-86 (1) A judge who reported a government attorney to the grievance committee must disqualify in all cases involving that attorney while the disciplinary matter is pending and for two years thereafter. (2) What the judge must state on the record or in writing pursuant to Judiciary Law § 9, when confidentiality has not been waived, is a legal question we cannot resolve. (3) If the judge believes the attorney's appearance on a case that had previously been handled by another colleague in the same governmental law office constitutes impermissible judge-shopping, the judge may report this conduct to the grievance committee.

Opinion 21-45 (1) Whether a judge who has reported an attorney to an attorney grievance committee may publicly disclose the reason for recusal, when confidentiality has not been waived, is a legal question we cannot resolve. (2) The judge may communicate privately with the reported attorney to advise them that a disciplinary complaint has been filed.

Opinion 20-213 A judge with personal knowledge that an attorney knowingly assisted a client in effectuating a transfer of disputed real estate under false pretenses must report the misconduct to the appropriate grievance committee. Reporting may await the conclusion of proceedings. After making the report, the judge is disqualified in all matters involving the attorney, both while the disciplinary matter is pending and for two years thereafter.

Opinion 20-161 Upon a judicial association’s filing of a disciplinary complaint against a District Attorney, its member and officer judges are not disqualified from matters in which the District Attorney appears.

Opinion 20-151 (1) A judge who files a disciplinary complaint against the District Attorney based on a prosecutorial policy that affects all local courts in the county is disqualified while the disciplinary proceeding is pending, and for two years after it is resolved, in any case where the District Attorney personally appears. Remittal is not available during this period unless the grievance committee imposes public discipline, or the District Attorney waives confidentiality. (2) The judge may nonetheless preside in cases where assistant district attorneys of the same office appear, even though the District Attorney is counsel of record, provided the judge is satisfied they did not set the policy and assuming he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 20-67 May a judge preside over matters involving staff attorneys employed by the Department of Social Services who are supervised by an attorney against whom the judge filed an ethical complaint approximately two years ago?

Opinion 19-44 What are a judge’s disciplinary obligations concerning an attorney who, acting pro se, makes material false claims about the judge both in affidavits submitted in the case before the judge and in various other unrelated proceedings against the judge? If the judge reports the attorney, may he/she continue to preside in the case where the attorney is appearing pro se?

Opinion 19-35 Where an attorney who practices in a specialized part manifests extremely rude, malicious, and belligerent behavior that, if true, appears to raise serious concerns about the attorney’s fitness to practice law: ... (6) a judge who decides to report the attorney is disqualified from the attorney’s cases both while the disciplinary matter is pending and for two years thereafter. During this period, remittal is not available unless the attorney waives confidentiality or the grievance committee issues a published opinion.

Opinion 18-176/18-176(A)/18-177 ...(2) If a judge decides to report the district attorney to the grievance committee, he/she must thereafter disqualify him/herself from cases in which the district attorney personally appears during the pendency of the disciplinary process and for two years after it ends. Remittal is not possible unless the grievance committee makes the misconduct a matter of public record or the district attorney waives confidentiality. The reporting judge may continue to preside in cases brought by assistant district attorneys, provided he/she can be fair and impartial. ...

Opinion 18-58 (1) A judge may continue to preside in a case after reporting one of the attorneys to a bar association’s lawyer assistance committee, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. (2) A judge who receives information indicating a substantial likelihood that an attorney has substantially violated the requirement of competence under the Rules of Professional Conduct must take appropriate action. What action is appropriate under the circumstances is ordinarily left to the judge’s discretion. However, if the judge determines the attorney’s condition is egregious and seriously calls into question the attorney’s fitness as a lawyer, the attorney’s condition must be reported to the grievance committee. (3) Even if the judge concludes that reporting to the attorney grievance committee is mandatory under the circumstances, the judge may wait until after the case is over before making the report in order to avoid the need for immediate disqualification in all matters involving the attorney.

Opinion 17-71 May a judge who filed a disciplinary complaint against an assistant district attorney require the prosecutor's office to substitute a different assistant district attorney in an upcoming criminal case?

Opinion 17-56 Where a judge has reported an attorney to the grievance committee for more than one instance of alleged misconduct, the judge is disqualified from all matters involving the attorney until two years after resolution of all disciplinary proceedings on the reported incidents. During this period, the judge's disqualification is not subject to remittal unless the attorney waives confidentiality or the grievance committee issues a published disciplinary opinion. The disqualification does not extend to other members of the reported attorney's law firm if the judge is satisfied that the other attorneys were not involved in the purported misconduct and if the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 17-14 (1) A multi-bench judge who has reported an attorney is disqualified from all matters in which the reported attorney appears, regardless of court or county, and regardless of whether the reported attorney is appearing as a public defender or a private attorney. The disqualification lasts while the disciplinary proceeding is pending and for two years after it is resolved. Remittal is not available during this period unless the grievance committee imposes public discipline or the reported attorney waives confidentiality. (2) Where the reported attorney is a part-time judge, the disqualification extends to cases in which the reported attorney has acted as a judge. [Point 2 is modified in part by Opinion 17-49.] (3) Where the reported attorney represents a defendant/participant in Treatment Court, the judge may not preside in the defendant/participant's case, even if the reported attorney files a waiver of appearance.

Opinion 17-49 A county court judge who filed a disciplinary complaint against a town or village justice is not necessarily disqualified in all indictments and superior court informations which originated as felony complaints before that justice. However, during the pendency of the disciplinary complaint and for two years after it is resolved, the county court judge must carefully review the nature and extent of the justice's involvement in such matters to determine if recusal is warranted.

Opinion 16-146 (1) A judge who has filed a disciplinary complaint against the District Attorney is disqualified while the disciplinary proceeding is pending, and for two years after it is resolved, in any case where the District Attorney personally appears. Remittal is not available during this period unless the grievance committee imposes public discipline or the District Attorney waives confidentiality. (2) The judge may preside in cases where assistant district attorneys of the same office appear, even though the District Attorney is counsel of record, provided the judge is satisfied they were not involved in the District Attorney’s purported misconduct and assuming he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 16-96 Where a judge has provided a negative evaluation to the Appellate Division about a doctor's work in a case before the judge, thus triggering reconsideration of the doctor's suitability for an Appellate Division panel, may the judge thereafter continue to preside in other cases in which the doctor appears? Does it make a difference that the doctor knows about the judge's comments?

Opinion 16-88 (1) A quasi-judicial official who is suing the county is disqualified, subject to remittal, when attorneys who are personally involved in defending the county appear before him/her in their private or official capacities. (2) For two years after the lawsuit concludes, disclosure is mandatory when these attorneys appear. (3) Neither disclosure nor recusal is required when other assistant county attorneys, or other attorneys from county-level government law offices appear, provided they are not personally involved in his/her lawsuit.

Opinion 16-49 How long is a judge disqualified from matters involving an attorney he/she reported to the grievance committee?

Opinion 16-23 A judge is not required to appoint an expert whose competence he/she questions. If the judge believes he/she cannot be fair and impartial in weighing the expert’s testimony, he/she may not preside in cases involving the expert. Conversely, if the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial, the judge may preside, despite the expert’s apparent efforts to pressure the judge into appointing him/her.

Opinion 15-117 On these facts, where a judge encouraged successor counsel to report his/her predecessor and said he/she would personally follow through as necessary to ensure a disciplinary complaint was ultimately filed, the judge must be held to the same standard as if he/she had personally filed the complaint.

Opinion 15-69 On these facts, a court attorney referee, who advised and spoke with the referring judge about attorney misconduct that was revealed during proceedings before the referee resulting in a lawyer disciplinary complaint, must be held to the same standard as if he/she had personally filed the complaint.

Opinion 14-150 A judge who reported an attorney to a grievance committee is thereafter disqualified from signing a proposed order the same attorney submitted in an unrelated matter, unless the judge determines the proposed order is perfectly identical to the judge’s oral order in the case, which was issued a year before the judge reported the attorney. If so, the judge may sign the proposed order without amendment provided there are no legal issues for the judge to consider or resolve in connection with the proposed order. The judge is otherwise disqualified in all cases in which the lawyer appears, including cases that were pending at the time the judge reported the attorney, during the pendency of the disciplinary complaint and for two years after the disciplinary complaint is resolved.

Opinion 14-126 A judge whose formal complaint against another judge resulted in public discipline more than two years ago may preside over matters in which the disciplined judge appears as an attorney, provided he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 14-88 A judge who learns an attorney appearing before him/her pro se has testified under oath that he/she used a fictitious bank account to shield his/her law firm income from court-ordered child support payments, must report the attorney to the attorney grievance committee. Thereafter, the judge must disqualify him/herself from any case in which the attorney appears during the pendency of the disciplinary proceeding and for two years thereafter. Remittal is unavailable unless the attorney waives confidentiality or the grievance committee issues a public disciplinary decision.

Opinion 11-113 Must a judge disqualify from matters involving an attorney against whom the judge filed a disciplinary complaint?

Opinion 10-122 A judge must determine whether he/she has information indicating a substantial likelihood that an attorney has committed a substantial violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and, if so, must take appropriate action. Should the judge report the attorney, the judge is disqualified from presiding in matters in which the attorney appears during the pendency of the disciplinary proceeding and for two years after it finally concludes, and remittal is unavailable.

Opinion 10-86 A judge who believes that the charges in a criminal complaint against a lawyer would, if proved, constitute a substantial violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct is not required to take any action unless he/she concludes there is a substantial likelihood that the charges are true. If the judge does report the lawyer, the judge must disqualify him/herself, without the possibility of remittal, if the lawyer appears before the judge while the disciplinary complaint is pending.

Opinion 09-179 A judge who referred a number of matters in which a particular attorney served as a fiduciary to the Office of Court Administration’s Managing Inspector General of Fiduciary Appointments for investigation must disqualify him/herself in any proceeding in which the attorney appears for a period of two years after said Inspector General completes his/her investigation.

Opinion 08-183/08-202/09-112 Whether a judge files a formal complaint against an attorney or makes an informal report to a disciplinary authority ultimately resulting in charges of misconduct against an attorney, and whether that complaint is filed before or after the judge ascends to the bench, the judge is disqualified from presiding during the pendency of the disciplinary matter. If charges are filed, but ultimately dismissed, or if a non-public discipline is imposed, the judge is disqualified from presiding for a period of two years after that matter is resolved. In neither case is such disqualification subject to remittal.

Opinion 09-21 A judge who files a complaint with the Office of Court Administration’s Managing Inspector General for Fiduciary Appointments concerning alleged misconduct by an attorney purportedly acting pursuant to an appointment as a guardian must disqualify him/herself in any proceeding where the attorney appears as counsel and, depending on the circumstances in a particular case, may also be required to disqualify him/herself when the attorney acts in some capacity other than as counsel; such as guardian, court evaluator, or trustee; during the complaint’s pendency and for two years after the complaint is resolved.

 

Conflicts - Lawsuits / Judge as Litigant (adversaries, adverse counsel, etc.)

(See also "Judge as Litigant (Pro Se etc.)")

Opinion 21-72 A town justice may preside in a matter involving an attorney from the law office which filed an Article 78 proceeding against the town and the town court clerk, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 21-23 During the pendency of a proceeding brought by the judge on behalf of the judge’s minor child, the judge is disqualified (subject to remittal) from matters involving the adverse party or parties, and their counsel. Once the proceeding terminates, disclosure is required in lieu of outright disqualification for a period of two years for those same parties and attorneys. NOTE: Modified by Opinion 21-41, which partially overrules points 2 and 3 of the digest. Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 20-163 (1) Provided the Surrogate can be fair and impartial, they need not disqualify in matters involving the Public Administrator’s office merely because (a) they relieved the PA of certain duties and (b) the PA thereafter commenced an Article 78 proceeding and filed complaints with an anti-discrimination agency and the Commission on Judicial Conduct. (2) The Surrogate need not disqualify while the Commission is investigating the PA’s complaint, but if the Commission formally charges the Surrogate with misconduct in a formal written complaint, the Surrogate must disqualify from matters involving the PA’s office.

Opinion 20-156 A full-time judge may consult with an attorney regarding the judge’s possible medical malpractice case, even if the attorney regularly appears before the judge. If the consultation is more than strictly brief and preliminary, the judge will ordinarily be disqualified, subject to remittal where permitted, in matters involving the attorney and others from the same law office.

Opinion 20-148 Where a judge and their spouse are alleged victims with an order of protection against a criminal defendant, the judge may nonetheless preside over unrelated matters involving the prosecutors, defense counsel, and police or probation officers from that criminal case. The judge also need not disqualify merely because an attorney in the case called or cross-examined the judge or their spouse as witnesses.

Opinion 20-78 A full-time court attorney-referee may commence a legal action for eviction and collection with respect to real properties he/she owns in any court of competent jurisdiction, but must do so through counsel unless he/she is the sole owner of the property.

Opinion 20-63 (1) A judge who recently negotiated a settlement of his/her lawsuits against a city must fully disclose these prior litigations in matters where the city is a party for two years from the date the presiding judge signs the order of settlement. During this period, if any party appears without counsel in matters where the city is a party, the judge must disqualify him/herself. (2) Opinions 18-139, 17-03, 14-11, 08-59, 04-66, 98-161, and 91-52 are modified or overruled to the extent they suggest a judge’s obligation completely ends when the litigation terminates. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 20-61 May a judge continue to preside over a criminal matter after the defendant files a federal lawsuit against him/her, the arresting police officer, and others? May the judge preside over other matters in which the police officer appears?

Opinion 20-18 A full-time judge may personally appeal the denial of claims for health insurance coverage for his/her dependent child and may seek reversal of charges imposed by the child’s college related to the claims.

Opinion 20-08 Where a judge is a defendant in a personal injury action, may he/she authorize his/her counsel to advise plaintiff’s counsel of his/her judicial status?

Opinion 18-139 (1) Where a town justice has filed a tax certiorari case in Supreme Court challenging the valuation of his/her property in the town and the town attorney is defending the town in Supreme Court: (a) while the tax certiorari proceeding is pending, the judge is disqualified from all matters in which the town attorney appears or in which the town itself is a party; (b) this disqualification is subject to remittal consistent with prior opinions; (c) the disqualification ends when the tax certiorari case ends. (2) We decline to answer legal questions and/or questions about a co-judge’s conduct.  [Note: Modified by Opinion 20-63.]

Opinion 17-133 (1) Where a judge is currently facing criminal charges in a neighboring county, arising from accusatory instruments issued by the specialized department or agency that oversees a comprehensive regulatory scheme, the judge may resume or continue to perform his/her judicial duties, except that he/she must not preside in cases involving (a) the department or agency that issued the accusatory instruments, (b) other alleged violations of the same comprehensive regulatory scheme, or (c) the District Attorney’s office that is prosecuting him/her. (2) The judge may not undertake to serve as his/her co-judge’s assistant or subordinate during the pendency of the criminal charges by making non-binding recommendations on traffic tickets subject to his/her co-judge’s review and approval.

Opinion 14-141 A judge who is currently a defendant in a criminal case involving domestic violence charges should not preside over other domestic violence cases during the pendency of his/her own case and, if convicted, during the term of any sentence that may be imposed. If the judge is acquitted or if the judge completes his/her sentence and/or probation, the judge may preside over other domestic violence cases provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 14-11 A judge who has sued the Public Defender is disqualified, subject to remittal, in matters where the Public Defender personally appears, but may preside in matters where assistant public defenders subject to the Public Defender’s supervision appear. [Note: Modified by Opinion 20-63 re: judge’s obligation with respect to adverse party or counsel after the litigation terminates.]

Opinion 13-83 A judge, who has obtained an Order of Protection against an individual based on the individual’s conduct during a recent appearance before the judge, must disqualify him/herself from matters involving the individual until the Order of Protection expires. Once it expires, the judge may preside over matters involving the individual, provided the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 12-162 Under the circumstances presented, where a judge believes in good faith that certain municipal employees have deliberately sought to interfere with the judge's ability to perform his/her judicial duties and such alleged conduct has caused the judge to file a Notice of Claim against the municipality, the judge may continue to preside in matters involving the municipality, provided that the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial in such matters. However, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, if one of the municipal employees identified in the Notice of Claim as allegedly engaging in offending conduct appears before the judge as a witness or an attorney.

Opinion 12-36 (1) While child support obligations continue between a judge and his/her ex-spouse, who is a local prosecutor, the judge is disqualified when either the ex-spouse or other attorneys subject to the judge's ex-spouse's supervision appear before the judge. Disqualification during this period is subject to remittal unless a party appears without counsel. (2) (a) After the financial obligations between the ex-spouses are discharged, the judge must disclose the former marital relationship when his/her ex-spouse appears before him/her, but need not make any disclosure when other prosecutors subject to the ex-spouse's supervision appear before the judge. (b) During this period, the judge must disqualify him/herself from a matter in which the judge's ex-spouse appears if any party is self-represented. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 10-209 A judge need not disqualify him/herself when an attorney appearing before the judge previously represented a plaintiff in an action against the judge [10 years ago] in the judge's individual capacity, as long as the judge believes he/she can be impartial. 

Opinion 10-99 What are a judge's obligations involving the attorney who represented the judge's ex-spouse against the judge in a family court matter, or the attorney’s partners and associates who were not involved in the ex-spouse’s representation, once the matter is concluded?

Opinion 09-172/10-31 (1) A criminal court judge who testified as a fact witness in a different court on behalf of a criminal defendant’s adversary about the criminal defendant’s physical condition at arraignment may continue to preside in the pending criminal matter involving the same defendant, unless the judge believes that he/she cannot be impartial. (2) A judge presiding in a Family Court proceeding who learns that a party has been charged with forging the judge’s signature on an order and signs an affidavit indicating that the signature on the order is not his/hers need not disqualify him/herself from the Family Court proceeding, unless the judge believes that he/she cannot be impartial.

 

Conflicts - Judge as Witness (Prior Testimony in Unrelated Matter)

Opinion 21-174 (1) Provided the judge can be fair and impartial in the underlying criminal case, the judge need not disqualify if the judge or their law clerk cooperate as fact witnesses in a police investigation concerning a bench conference in which an active state trooper was identified solely as defense counsel’s “associate.” 

Opinion 20-148 Where a judge and their spouse are alleged victims with an order of protection against a criminal defendant, the judge may nonetheless preside over unrelated matters involving the prosecutors, defense counsel, and police or probation officers from that criminal case. The judge also need not disqualify merely because an attorney in the case called or cross-examined the judge or their spouse as witnesses.

Opinion 14-55 A judge who is called as a witness in a criminal case concerning threats allegedly made against the judge may continue to preside over unrelated matters involving the attorneys who are prosecuting or defending that criminal case, provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial in the matters before him/her.

Opinion 13-120 Must a judge disqualify him/herself in matters involving two attorneys and their law firm because the judge testified, pursuant to a subpoena, at their disciplinary hearing eight years ago?

Opinion 12-12 A town justice who, in his/her official capacity, consulted the town attorney about a subpoena the judge received is not disqualified from presiding when the town attorney appears in his/her court once the subpoena is no longer outstanding and the representation is concluded.

Opinion 09-172/10-31 (1) A criminal court judge who testified as a fact witness in a different court on behalf of a criminal defendant’s adversary about the criminal defendant’s physical condition at arraignment may continue to preside in the pending criminal matter involving the same defendant, unless the judge believes that he/she cannot be impartial. (2) A judge presiding in a Family Court proceeding who learns that a party has been charged with forging the judge’s signature on an order and signs an affidavit indicating that the signature on the order is not his/hers need not disqualify him/herself from the Family Court proceeding, unless the judge believes that he/she cannot be impartial.

Opinion 09-219 A judge who has been subpoenaed for deposition as a non-party witness by the defendant law firm in a legal malpractice action must disqualify him/herself in unrelated cases pending in his/her court where the defendant law firm appears while a motion to quash the subpoena is pending or until the judge’s deposition is completed, but only if the judge must take some judicial action in a case involving the law firm.

 

Conflicts - Miscellaneous Criticism, Complaints or Threats

Opinion 22-47 Once a judge has reported a litigant's harassment to the police and the DA's office, is the judge disqualified from other criminal matters involving the same prosecutor and police department?

Opinion 21-72 A town justice may preside in a matter involving an attorney from the law office which filed an Article 78 proceeding against the town and the town court clerk, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 13-44 A judge who previously served on a few occasions as a part-time prosecutor by designation is not required to disclose in criminal matters that his/her designation by the local district attorney was revoked without explanation following unrelated media criticism of the latter prosecutor.

Opinion 12-128 A judge need not disclose that a party to pending litigation has filed an ethics complaint against a court-appointed expert, where the judge learned of the complaint when an investigator from the disciplinary authority requested a copy of the expert's confidential report.

Opinion 10-43/10-44 (1) A part-time town justice may be a named plaintiff in the town’s insurer’s lawsuit against criminal defendants whose cases are pending in the same court where the judge presides and also may initiate his/her own lawsuit against the same defendants concerning their conduct as it relates to the town court criminal cases. (2) A judge whose court clerk is a named plaintiff in the town’s insurer’s lawsuit against criminal defendants whose cases are pending in the judge’s court need not disqualify him/herself from such cases as long as he/she can be impartial, but should insulate the court clerk from any involvement in the cases.

Opinion 10-38 A judge who receives correspondence from the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct during an on-going trial concerning a complaint filed by a party to the trial, including the complainant/party’s letter to the Commission, need not disqualify him/herself from the on-going trial unless the judge believes he/she can no longer be impartial.

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Conflicts FAQs for Town and Village Justices - Individual Who Sets the Judge's Salary or the Court's Budget; Town or Village Employees; Frequent Litigators in the Town or Village Courts

Opinion 21-93 May a town justice allow the town’s Chief Constable to provide court security in the town court and to prosecute town ordinance violations “while also acting as a Court Officer”?

Opinion 21-83 On these facts, a town justice in a town encompassing a village with its own court may not allow the town court clerk to simultaneously serve as clerk to the village police, where (a) the two courts share the same justices and courtroom and (b) the clerical staffs share the same telephone and service window, interact throughout the work day, and cover for each other.

Opinion 21-01 A town justice, who serves as village attorney for a village which is wholly encompassed within the town where the justice presides, may not continue as town justice and village attorney where the town court would be expected to hear all cases arising out of the village, including actions to enforce village zoning, parking and other local laws. The justice may not recuse from all village cases in order to retain both positions.

Opinion 20-159 A judge is not disqualified when the assistant town attorney appears before the judge, even if the attorney obtains the party’s endorsement and becomes a candidate for non-judicial office on the judge’s slate.

Opinion 20-88 Where a court officer’s job responsibilities include performing administrative and clerical duties for the court on days when the court is not in session, the judge may not permit a police officer to serve in this role.

Opinion 20-32 Where an assistant public defender with no supervisory responsibilities serves on the town board that sets the town justice’s salary and the court’s budget, the town justice (1) is disqualified, subject to remittal, in all matters involving that APD but (2) may otherwise preside in cases involving the Public Defender’s office, assuming he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 19-156 May a justice who previously participated in village policy decisions as a village trustee (presumably including amendments to the village code), preside in cases involving village code violations?

Opinion 19-155 (1) A judge may, but is not required to, disclose his/her concerns to any appropriate authority, including the village police chief, about whether a newly appointed provisional village police officer has proper legal authority and credentials to carry a firearm. ... (3) A judge who concludes he/she has a reasonable, good-faith basis to question the firearm authorization status of a police officer who has been designated to provide security in the judge’s courtroom may, but is not required to, meet with the village police chief concerning the issue. If the judge concludes the officer is not properly authorized, trained, and/or licensed to carry a firearm, he/she may take any lawful measures to ensure order and decorum in his/her courtroom, including, but not limited to, objecting to the officer’s placement in his/her courtroom and consulting with court administrators on how to proceed.

Opinion 19-153 (1) If a town justice believes the town board’s hiring procedure in hiring a court clerk was unlawful and/or creates an appearance of impropriety, he/she must withhold his/her consent to hiring the selected court clerk. (2) A town justice need not object to employing a court clerk who: (a) is the town supervisor’s second-degree relative, but must insulate him/her from all cases in which the town supervisor is personally involved or in which the town is a named party; (b) will continue to work for a criminal defense attorney for one month while being trained by the outgoing court clerk, but must insulate him/her from matters involving that attorney during this period; and/or (c) during the interview, expressed interest in assisting the town clerk if hired as town court clerk.

Opinion 19-128 A village justice may consent to hiring a part-time court clerk whose spouse is a village trustee.

Opinion 19-114 A part-time town justice may represent the town and a village contained within the town in federal court. However, he/she is then disqualified in matters where either client is a party. While the disqualification is subject to remittal, if the representation results in excessive disqualifications, the judge must choose between the two positions.

Opinion 19-102 A town justice may not consent to employment of the town supervisor's full-time confidential secretary as a part-time town court clerk.

Opinion 19-71 A town justice who also serves as principal court attorney in superior court for a designated youth part judge: (1) may arraign adolescent offenders in the county's centralized arraignment part; (2) must be insulated as a court attorney from (a) cases he/she arraigned in the centralized arraignment part and (b) all cases originating in or appealed from the town court; but (3) need not otherwise be insulated as a court attorney from adolescent offender cases merely because they were arraigned in the centralized arraignment part.

Opinion 18-184 A part-time judge who is also a law clerk to a full-time judge in a criminal part may not avoid insulation as a law clerk in matters originating in his/her court by allowing his/her co-judges to assume responsibility for all felony arraignments, felony hearings and other felony-related criminal proceedings in that court.

Opinion 18-141 A part-time judge is not disqualified when a relative (other than a spouse) of a town board member or the town supervisor, who are involved in setting the judge’s salary, appears as a witness or prosecutor, but is disqualified when the town supervisor’s child or grandchild appears as a party.

Opinion 18-86 May a judge, who is a resident and taxpayer in a particular town, preside in a criminal matter involving a defendant’s alleged conduct at a zoning board meeting, once the defendant has filed a notice of claim against the town for damages arising from the same incident?

Opinion 18-85 May a town justice preside over a criminal matter involving the town highway superintendent, where the town supervisor (as complainant) has given sworn statements to the police against the highway superintendent and may be called as a witness in the criminal case?

Opinion 17-183 May a part-time judge also serve as a full-time deputy county attorney in Family Court, handling juvenile delinquency matters pursuant to article 3 of the Family Court Act?

Opinion 17-118 May a town justice continue presiding over (a) civil cases where the town is a party and (b) violations prosecuted by the town attorney pursuant to authority delegated by the District Attorney, when a person the judge has treated as a first-degree relative becomes town supervisor?

Opinion 17-113 May a judge continue to serve as an acting village justice if his/her spouse is elected as a village trustee? 

Opinion 17-105 A town justice need not prohibit his/her law firm employee from serving on the town board, provided the employee agrees in writing to abstain from any matters involving the justice court, including the judge's salary and the court's budget.

Opinion 17-89 May a town justice preside over matters assigned to staff attorneys in the Public Defender's office, after the Public Defender is elected to the Town Board?

Opinion 17-50 May a village justice hear a summary proceeding where the village attorney is appearing on behalf of a private client?

Opinion 16-174 What are a village justice's obligations once a local probation officer is appointed to serve on the village board? Does it make a difference if they will also be on the same slate in an upcoming election?

Opinion 16-81 May a town or village justice preside in matters involving an attorney who (1) is associated in the practice of law with the municipality's attorney and (2) is married to the full-time administrative assistant of a person who participates in setting the judge's salary and the court's budget?

Opinion 16-21 A part-time judge, presiding without a jury, is disqualified, subject to remittal, if a town board member who votes on setting the judge’s salary is a necessary witness whose credibility the judge must evaluate.

Opinion 15-224 Where the village police chief is a town board member who may participate in setting the town justice’s salary or the court’s budget, the justice is disqualified, subject to remittal, in any village police case.

Opinion 15-16 A village justice may preside when village police officers appear in the village court..

Opinion 14-120 A village justice may preside in a criminal case where the defendant and the alleged victim are attorneys who practice in the village court, and the prosecutor is the town attorney for a neighboring town, provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 14-111 A town justice whose spouse is a village trustee may preside over arraignments for the village court when the village justice and acting village justice are unavailable, and need not disclose the relationship or offer to disqualify him/herself solely on this basis.

Opinion 14-84  A town justice is disqualified, subject to remittal where applicable, in cases involving a store owned by a town board member who participates in setting the judge’s salary and the court’s budget.

Opinion 14-75 Must a town justice disqualify him/herself when a law partner or associate attorney from a town board member's law firm appears in the judge’s court?

Opinion 14-72 Where the town board does not participate in setting the village court’s budget or its justice’s salary, and when members of the town board appear in the village court, a village justice’s impartiality cannot reasonably be questioned simply because the town board pays a portion of the village court’s clerical expenses.

Opinion 14-65 May a town justice preside in a case involving the Town Highway Superintendent?

Opinion 14-62 A judge may preside over a case where a party currently appearing before him/her is also an attorney who regularly appears before the judge, provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial. The judge does not thereby incur any obligation to disclose or disqualify him/herself in other matters in which the attorney or his/her law firm appears.

Opinion 14-56 May a town judge preside over a matter involving an individual who is a former domestic partner of an official of the town in which the judge presides?

Opinion 14-36 A town/village justice may not preside during an arraignment at which a town or village board member, who participates in setting the judge’s salary, appears as the prosecution’s sole representative.

Opinion 13-163 May a judge preside over matters involving code violations when the Village Code Enforcement Officer also serves as a Town Board member?

Opinion 13-117 Is it ethically permissible for a Town Court to allow a Town Board member, who is involved in setting the judge’s salary and the court budget, to serve as a security officer in the court?

Opinion 12-72 A part-time judge need not disqualify him/herself where the emancipated adult child of a town board member or village trustee, who participates in setting a judge's salary, appears as a witness.

Opinion 11-13 May a town or village justice preside in matters where the town or village attorney, who serves as special prosecutor for traffic matters before the judge, appears on behalf of private clients?

Opinion 11-02 May a town justice preside in a criminal case involving the relative of a town official, where the official has no involvement in determining the judge’s salary or the court’s budget?

Opinion 10-146 A Town Justice must disqualify him/herself when his/her siblings appear in the judge’s court and, because one sibling is the Town Supervisor, also must disqualify him/herself in any case in which the Town is a party.

Opinion 09-107 (1) A part-time town justice must disqualify him/herself when the town supervisor’s sibling is the defendant in a small claims case. The judge’s disqualification is subject to remittal unless a party appears without a lawyer.  [NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.]

Opinion 09-106 May a village justice who serves without compensation preside in a case where a village trustee is the complainant?

Opinion 09-16 A part-time town justice must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal unless a party is self represented: 1) in any matters where a Deputy Sheriff, who also serves on the Town Board, appears as a prosecutor or a witness; 2) in any matters involving the spouse of a Town Board member who appears in his/her capacity as a Deputy Sheriff; or 3) in any matters involving the son and/or daughter-in-law of a Town Board member. [NOTE: Modified by Opinion 12-72, which distinguishes between witnesses who are spouses of town board members and witnesses who are adult relatives who do not reside with the town board member.]

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Conflicts - Judge's Extra-Judicial Activities

Opinion 20-50 A part-time town judge may serve on the town’s board of assessment review and its strictly advisory historical preservation commission, subject to disqualification in any matters involving these entities or their determinations or recommendations.

Opinion 19-55 (1) A full-time judge may serve as officer or director of a bar foundation that provides financial aid to individual attorneys in personal and professional crisis, although the judge must not personally participate in fund-raising or permit judicial prestige to be used for fund-raising purposes. (2) The judge may preside in matters involving attorneys receiving assistance from the foundation, where the judge’s contacts with them are relatively minimal and occur exclusively through a liaison who presents the case to the board. Disqualification is not mandatory unless (a) the attorney asks the judge to recuse him/herself or (b) the judge doubts his/her ability to be fair and impartial. The attorney must be advised that the judge will recuse on request, without explanation, if the attorney is uncomfortable with the judge presiding over a particular case as a result of the attorney’s participation in the foundation.

Opinion 19-01 A full-time judge who recently resigned from the board of a public benefit corporation (1) must recuse him/herself, subject to remittal, on all matters on which he/she was briefed or involved as a board member but (2) may preside in other matters involving the entity, assuming the judge is satisfied he/she can be fair and impartial, and disclosure is entirely discretionary.

Opinion 18-44(A) A judge need not recuse him/herself from matters involving a credit union in which the judge is a member and account holder.

Opinion 16-22 May a judge participate in a prison ministry program where inmates sentenced by the judge may be present in the program's group sessions?

Opinion 15-223 (1) A judge who is co-trustee of a relative’s charitable trust may authorize the trust to make charitable donations to not-for-profit entities that regularly appear before the judge, including legal services providers and agencies to which the judge may make referrals. Provided the judge can be fair and impartial, neither disclosure nor disqualification is required when a recipient of the trust’s charitable donations appears before him/her. (2) A judge as co-trustee of a charitable trust may participate in authorizing donations to not-for-profit organizations that seek to influence social policy, even where the organizations may seek to change the law through litigation, provided the contributions will not readily be perceived as improper political activity.

Opinion 15-210/09-56 Amended (1) A judge may join a local chapter of the Shooters Committee on Political Education only if, at the time of joining the entity, he/she is satisfied after reasonable inquiry that the local chapter and the national entity (a) do not align themselves with any political party, (b) do not endorse or promote any candidates for elective office, and (c) have the primary purpose of educating the public about firearm ownership, Second Amendment rights and legislation.
(2) Where membership is permitted, the judge may join as a regular member, provided (a) such membership does not involve the judge in organizational litigation or publicly associate him/her with organizational positions on matters of public controversy, (b) the judge does not assume a leadership position in the organization, (c) the judge disqualifies him/herself, subject to remittal, should the organization appear in the judge’s court, and (d) the judge does not contribute to any political action committee or other political arm of the organization.
(3) A judge who has joined a local chapter of SCOPE after making reasonable inquiry to ensure it is not a political organization within the meaning of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct may ordinarily rely on that initial assessment. However, if he/she becomes aware of facts suggesting that the entity has become politically active, the judge must either immediately resign or make further inquiries to assure him/herself that the local chapter and the national organization are not political organizations within the meaning of the Rules.

Opinion 15-76 May a judge participate in a bar association CLE program entitled "Social Media Ethics Guidelines for Attorneys" when the panel includes law partners from various law firms?

Opinion 15-26/15-44 (1) A judge may attend an annual fund-raising event for a not-for profit organization that provides services and support to victims of domestic abuse and child abuse. (2) A judge may attend a non-fund-raising breakfast organized by a consortium of domestic violence agencies to promote discussion of current issues related to domestic violence, including recent and pending domestic violence legislation, where the event and participants are not so imbalanced as to cast doubt on the judge’s impartiality. (3) At either event, the judge should absent him/herself if there is any discussion of a case the judge knows is pending before him/her or another judge in the same court.

Opinion 15-23 A judge who teaches at a law school, and has no role in a pro bono clinical program organized as a separate legal entity from the law school, may appoint the clinic and its qualified participants to fiduciary positions, and may award appropriate fees as the applicable rules and law permit.

Opinion 07-155/98-31 Neither a part-time nor a full-time judge may serve on a charter review commission to review and propose amendments to a city or county charter, as they must avoid improper political activity and maintain public confidence in their ability to be fair and impartial.

Opinion 14-187 Under the specific circumstances presented, where a Surrogate entered into a contract to purchase real property in good faith, but, thereafter, learned the property was part of a decedent’s estate, it is sufficient for the Surrogate to disqualify him/herself from any further involvement in the probate proceeding and the Surrogate need not also repudiate the contract.

Opinion 14-74 A full-time judge may accept free admission to a continuing legal education seminar offered by a private legal training organization that is owned and/or operated by an attorney who has not appeared, and is not likely to appear, in the judge’s court, subject to a reporting requirement if the value of the gift exceeds $150. In the event that the attorney later appears in the judge’s court, the judge’s obligation is to disclose the gift for a reasonable period of time following the seminar, and the length of such period of time is left entirely to the judge’s discretion after consideration of all relevant factors.

Opinion 12-104 A judge (1) may solemnize the marriage of an attorney who regularly appears before the judge; and (2) will not, on that sole basis, incur any new or additional disclosure obligations.

Opinion 12-21 A judge may offer his/her private law library for free to members of a local bar association on a "first come, first serve basis," and need not disclose or disqualify him/herself from matters in which an attorney recipient appears.

Opinion 11-68 (1) An acting village justice may continue to serve as a member of the architectural review board of the town in which the village is located. (2) An acting village justice who is a member of a town architectural review board must disqualify him/herself from any matters involving the review board, including zoning matters related to the review board’s recommendations, when the judge is assigned to sit temporarily in the town court.

Opinion 10-145 Where a judge is the president of a judicial association, and a partner at a large private law firm provides pro bono "of counsel" services to the association, what are the judge's obligations if that partner, or other attorneys from the law firm, appear before the judge during the judge's term as president?

Opinion 09-236 A judge who is a member of an advisory board to a university law school must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, when either the law school or the university is a party in the judge’s court.

Opinion 09-234 May a judge serve on the same board of directors of a non-profit organization with an attorney who regularly appears before in the judge's court?

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Conflicts - Ex Parte Communications

(See also "Ex Parte Communications")

Opinion 22-34 A judge who receives ex parte correspondence from an inmate claiming that the conviction was obtained through perjured police testimony: (1) may not forward the correspondence to the Conviction Integrity Unit, but may instead treat this correspondence as the judge treats other impermissible ex parte communications; and (2) need not disqualify if an application seeking to vacate the conviction is eventually filed and assigned to the judge.

Opinion 20-195 (1) A judge need not disclose, in a matter currently pending before the judge, a prosecutor’s ex parte communication asking if the judge would honor a grand jury subpoena concerning a related but now-concluded case, where the communication contained no information pertaining to the merits of the pending matter. (2) The judge may continue to preside unless the judge believes they cannot be impartial.

Opinion 18-176/18-176(A)/18-177 ...(4) If the issue of the district attorney’s possible misconduct is likely to come before the county court judge, the part-time judge who serves as his/her court attorney should disclose to the county court judge that he/she could be called as a witness, but should avoid substantive ex parte communications to the extent practicable. (5) On these facts, a county court judge whose staff members may be called as witnesses retains discretion to preside over the case if he/she concludes he/she can be fair and impartial, but must (a) insulate court personnel who are potential witnesses from the case and disclose the insulation to the parties; (b) instruct the insulated court personnel not to discuss the case with him/her ex parte; and (c) disclose any substantive ex parte communications he/she may have received from them. The judge may consult with an administrative judge concerning any difficulties implementing these recommendations. ...

Opinion 18-157 Where an appellate judge with administrative or supervisory responsibilities concludes that a lower-court judge improperly contacted the judges participating in an appeal in an attempt to influence the disposition of the case, he/she (1) must ensure the incident is reported to the Commission on Judicial Conduct; (2) must direct that the improper communication be disclosed to appellate counsel in the case; and (3) may permit the appellate judges who received the improper communication to continue to preside in the case if he/she is satisfied they (a) can be fair and impartial and (b) can decide the appeal without reference to the improper communication.

Opinion 18-99 A judge was inadvertently exposed to an ex parte communication concerning a case. He/she terminated the communication as quickly as possible, discouraged further contact, and promptly disclosed the information to counsel at arraignment. The judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial. Need the judge take any further action?

Opinion 17-181 Under the circumstances, a judge who inadvertently presided in a matter involving a recent former client, and received ex parte communications from the former client after deciding the matter adversely to him/her, must make full disclosure to both sides by letter to counsel. The judge must disqualify him/herself from any post-trial, post-judgment applications and any other proceedings in the matter.

Opinion 14-39 (1) A judge, having learned that an attorney on a case is under indictment, but having no personal knowledge of the underlying circumstances, is not required to report the attorney to the attorney disciplinary authority. (2) As the judge has concluded he/she can decide the case before him/her without reference to this information, the judge need not make any disclosure to other attorneys on the case.

Opinion 10-38 A judge who receives correspondence from the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct during an on-going trial concerning a complaint filed by a party to the trial, including the complainant/party’s letter to the Commission, need not disqualify him/herself from the on-going trial unless the judge believes he/she can no longer be impartial.

Opinion 10-26 A judge who believes that he/she can continue to preside in a judicial proceeding “fairly and impartially” need not disqualify him/herself after a court employee, without authorization, accessed the recording of a confidential (Lincoln) hearing held during such proceeding. However, if it is legally permissible to do so, the judge should disclose that the incident occurred to the adult parties and the attorneys involved in the judicial proceeding.

Opinion 09-75 Must the inquiring judge exercise recusal after receiving an ex parte communication from another judge who asked about a relative’s trial testimony in a non-jury, civil matter currently pending before the inquiring judge, sub judice?

Opinion 09-71 In a situation where a judge disclosed the contents of an ex parte conversation to all counsel and parties, addressed disqualification and discussed contacting the Administrative Judge for guidance, whether or not the judge initially disqualified him/herself is a factual determination to be made by the judge. A question concerning whether a judge has the authority to change his/her mind regarding a previously determined disqualification is a legal question outside of the authority of this Committee to address. A judge should exercise his/her discretion regarding whether or not the judge need disqualify him/herself after receiving an ex parte communication about a case pending before the judge.

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Conflicts - Miscellaneous

Opinion 21-131 (1) A judicial candidate may not enter into a contract with a law firm in which the candidate agrees to recuse in certain matters if elected.  

Opinion 19-139 What are a judge’s obligations with respect to unclaimed bail monies from a case his/her predecessor fully adjudicated, where the judge could not personally have handled the underlying matter?

Opinion 19-69 On these facts, a town justice who disqualified him/herself in one small claims case where a village police officer was a party is not automatically disqualified from hearing all future matters involving the village police, provided he/she can be fair and impartial, even though the justice mentioned his/her prior law enforcement career and "many close bonds and friendships" within the department. The judge may, in his/her sole discretion, clarify his/her rationale and/or explain in future cases that he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 19-46 A town justice whose co-judge is unavailable to handle any cases (1) may undertake the strictly ministerial role of depositing and transmitting fine money received in cases previously adjudicated by his/her co-judge in fulfilment of statutory and regulatory directives but (2) must otherwise check for conflicts in any further proceedings involving the co-judge’s former caseload and disqualify him/herself when necessary.

Opinion 19-39 A judge need not disqualify him/herself merely because (1) the judge could potentially be called as a witness in another proceeding concerning a statement the judge does not recall hearing and (2) the judge once disqualified him/herself in another case involving the same attorney, due to an undisclosed conflict with another law firm.

Opinion 19-28 Where an agency attorney initially accepted a court attorney position with the judge, but then declined the position without commencing employment, the judge may continue to preside in cases where the attorney appears, if the judge decides he/she can be fair and impartial. The judge need not disclose the unconsummated employment opportunity.

Opinion 18-171 On these facts: (2) If the judge concludes in good faith, after careful consideration of all relevant factors, (a) that a party’s belated retention of this law firm as co-counsel in a case is undertaken primarily or solely for judge-shopping purposes and (b) that the judge can nonetheless be completely fair and impartial in the case, the judge may continue to preside in the matter, provided that the judge (i) makes at least a minimal disclosure of the general nature of the conflict and (ii) fully discloses the basis for his/her conclusion that the retention of counsel is strategic in nature and why he/she believes he/she can be impartial. (3) Whether the judge may hold a hearing to determine if a party is attempting to engage in judge-shopping presents a legal question beyond our jurisdiction.

Opinion 17-180 Must a town justice whose law practice has absolutely no affiliation with the law practice of his/her first-degree relative (parent or child) prohibit the relative from appearing before other judges in the same court?

Opinion 17-105  A town justice need not prohibit his/her law firm employee from serving on the town board, provided the employee agrees in writing to abstain from any matters involving the justice court, including the judge's salary and the court's budget.

Opinion 17-74 May a judge preside in matters involving a hospital that recently provided emergency medical care to the judge?

Opinion 17-44 A judge who believes a local attorney is under criminal investigation, but has no personal knowledge of any impropriety, may continue to preside in matters involving that attorney, provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 17-13 Where a judge's recusal for one attorney is specific to his/her personal assessment of that attorney's character, the judge is not disqualified from presiding in matters where that attorney's law partner appears as a part-time government attorney, provided that the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 16-156 A judge should not send a thank you note in response to a laudatory ex parte letter from an attorney who recently appeared before the judge.

Opinion 16-138 A judge who wishes to hire a new personal appointee law clerk may circulate the job notice through a bar association, specialized bar association committees, and attorneys who serve on those committees. The judge may also ask these attorneys to circulate the job notice within their law firms. There is no need for disqualification or disclosure merely because an attorney appearing before the judge, or his/her spouse, agrees to circulate a job notice for the judge.

Opinion 16-120 Where a judge learns of a conflict with a witness which precludes him/her from presiding in a criminal defendant’s Outley hearing, the judge is disqualified from the remainder of the criminal case and may not sentence the defendant.

Opinion 16-70 A judge may exercise his/her statutory obligation to exercise ongoing administrative responsibilities over a municipal office or agency, even though the judge is currently disqualified from presiding over any proceedings involving the office.

Opinion 16-26 A Court of Claims judge has no duty to disclose or disqualify him/herself from cases involving the Attorney General’s office, based only on media efforts to link the judge and his/her spouse with a person whom the Attorney General is investigating.

Opinion 15-208 A judge who is disqualified from a case, due to his/her former legal practice, may nonetheless permit his/her unconflicted principal law clerk to conference the case at the request of the presiding judge in the case, provided the disqualified judge does not communicate with the law clerk about the case.

Opinion 15-186 Under the circumstances presented, where a judge offered selected attorneys the opportunity to purchase tickets to a local sporting event, and one attorney took advantage of the offer, the judge must disclose the transaction for three months when the attorney appears before him/her.

Opinion 15-147 A judge who presided over certain cases, and subsequently learned that recusal would have been appropriate in those cases, has no further ethical obligation in cases now concluded.

Opinion 15-111 Provided the judge can be fair and impartial, neither disclosure nor disqualification is required merely because a judge responded to a confidential request from a judicial appointments committee for comments on the character, ability, integrity, and temperament of an attorney who regularly appears before the judge.

Opinion 15-82 If all parties were represented by counsel when they and their attorneys agreed the judge should not be disqualified, the remittal remains effective even if a party afterward discharges his/her attorney. [Note: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.]

Opinion 15-53 A judge need not disqualify him/herself from a civil action after testifying in a separate criminal proceeding, pursuant to a subpoena, about the orders and directives he/she issued in the civil action, even though the judge’s testimony is adverse to one of the litigants in the civil action, unless the judge believes that he/she cannot be impartial.

Opinion 15-35/15-75 The fact that a judge’s first-degree relative was killed by a driver who was charged with driving under the influence, or that a judge him/herself was previously a victim of domestic violence, does not, by itself, require disqualification of the judge in cases involving persons charged with the same statutory offenses that caused injury to the judge or the judge’s first-degree relative, provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 14-01 Whether a judge may preside over an arraignment, in which a defendant is not represented by counsel, raises primarily legal questions; however, if a judge acts in conformity with governing law the judge will not violate the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.

Opinion 12-50 Must a judge disqualify from hearing and deciding a contempt application against a defendant, where (1) the application was brought two days before the judge's scheduled visit, pursuant to court mandate, to the correctional facility in which the defendant was incarcerated and (2) the superintendent who conducted the tour was called as a witness against the defendant at the contempt hearing?

Opinion 12-21 A judge may offer his/her private law library for free to members of a local bar association on a "first come, first serve basis," and need not disclose or disqualify him/herself from matters in which an attorney recipient appears.

Opinion 12-13 Must a judge disqualify or disclose their prior landlord/tenant relationship and possible associate relationship with an attorney, which ended more than 16 years ago, when that attorney is currently representing the plaintiffs in a civil action brought against a pro se defendant?

Opinion 11-23 A judge need not disclose that he/she referred an individual to an attorney who is currently appearing before the judge on other matters. [Note: This involves a judge's purely 'social' referral of a friend, involving no referral fee or other benefit to the judge.]

Opinion 10-170/11-03 Whether a judge may permit a lay complainant to prosecute an alleged criminal violation is a question of law which is beyond this Committee’s jurisdiction. If a judge determines that the district attorney’s implicit or explicit delegation of authority to prosecute a particular matter is not lawful, then the judge should decline to preside over such matters. But, if a judge determines that such delegation is lawful, then the judge may preside in such matters, although the judge must remain fair and impartial and may not provide either side with guidance on procedural or substantive issues.

Opinion 10-151 A judge is not disqualified in a tax certiorari case merely because he/she resides in the town or school district where the tax refund is sought.

Opinion 10-150 A judge who believes that he/she can be fair and impartial may preside when the court clerk testifies pursuant to subpoena about the defendant providing proof of compliance with a condition of the defendant’s sentence.

Opinion 10-26 A judge who believes that he/she can continue to preside in a judicial proceeding “fairly and impartially” need not disqualify him/herself after a court employee, without authorization, accessed the recording of a confidential (Lincoln) hearing held during such proceeding. However, if it is legally permissible to do so, the judge should disclose that the incident occurred to the adult parties and the attorneys involved in the judicial proceeding.

Opinion 09-193 A judge who presides in a specialized part of the Supreme Court and receives assistance from an attorney who volunteers as a Special Master must disclose the relationship when other attorneys from that attorney's law firm appear in the judge's court. If a party objects to the judge continuing to preside, the judge has the discretion to recuse or, assuming he/she can be impartial, to continue to preside, depending on the circumstances in each case.

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Mechanics of Disqualification and Remittal

Opinion 22-17 (2) If a judge is disqualified in a matter, the disqualification applies to all stages of the case, including the issuance or staying of a bench warrant. 

Opinion 22-17 (3) A judge who previously served as an institutional criminal defense attorney or as a social services provider to numerous criminal defendants must adopt reasonable procedures to identify such clients. However, the judge need not investigate or take any other action unless the judge actually recognizes a particular individual as a former client, or unless such former client relationship is otherwise brought to the judge’s attention.

Opinion 21-131 (1) A judicial candidate may not enter into a contract with a law firm in which the candidate agrees to recuse in certain matters if elected.  

Opinion 21-85 Among other requirements, remittal of a judge's disqualification requires on-the-record, individual and specific consent by all parties that have appeared and not defaulted. Where the purpose of the proceeding is to determine if a party has the capacity to make decisions on their own behalf, a judge who has a remittable conflict must disqualify without offering an opportunity for remittal unless the judge determines that the attorney has the legal standing to consent to remittal on behalf of the alleged incapacitated party.

Opinion 21-59(B) Provided the judge can be fair and impartial, a judge who was publicly censured by the Commission on Judicial Conduct more than two years ago may preside in matters involving individuals who had testified on the judge’s behalf in the disciplinary proceeding. Disclosure is left to the judge’s discretion.

Opinion 21-22(A) Remittal of disqualification is a three-step process requiring full disclosure on the record of the basis for disqualification and the voluntary affirmative consent of the parties and their counsel. However, we no longer prohibit remittal of disqualification merely because a party is unrepresented. We hereby modify our prior opinions to abolish that requirement.

Opinion 21-02 A judge who believes that the statutory obligation to provide a reason for discretionary recusal is unconstitutional may act in accordance with a legal determination made by the judge on the record, but may not conceal the true basis of the judge’s ruling.

Opinion 20-82/20-86 A judge who is disqualified, subject to remittal, in all cases involving a particular law office may offer the parties and their counsel an opportunity to remit disqualification, but must not actively advocate for remittal. While a judge may expedite the remittal process by using a form that memorializes the basis for disqualification, the form must fully disclose all relevant facts and must permit the parties and their counsel to decide freely without the judge’s participation. Nor may the judge preside in any non-ministerial stage of a case involving that law office, unless the disqualification is properly remitted.

Opinion 19-139 What are a judge’s obligations with respect to unclaimed bail monies from a case his/her predecessor fully adjudicated, where the judge could not personally have handled the underlying matter?

Opinion 19-93 A judge who is currently disqualified, subject to remittal, in matters involving a particular attorney has the same obligation in cases where that attorney, although not physically present, may have previously appeared per diem in the case or is likely to appear per diem in that case in the future.

Opinion 18-111 Where a judge was properly presiding in multiple criminal cases involving a particular defendant and has no conflict relating to counsel in the matter, the judge may review and approve defense counsel’s 18-B vouchers for work done on these cases prior to the judge’s recusal.

Opinion 18-79 Where a judge discovers, after completing a hearing but before issuing the decision, that he/she had previously been disqualified in that same case solely because, at that time, the two-year disqualification period for former clients had not yet elapsed: (1) the judge may continue to preside and may dispose of the case, provided he/she can be fair and impartial; and (2) disclosure of the circumstances is entirely discretionary, but suggested.

Opinion 17-185 Where a Family Court judge has a remittable conflict in a neglect proceeding, remittal of disqualification requires the consent of all parties and statutorily defined “interested persons” who have appeared and not defaulted in the proceeding. Remittal is not available if any party or interested person appears without counsel. However, remittal does not require the consent of an interested person who fails to appear or participate in the case. NOTE: Opinion 21-22(A) abolished the "pro se remittal" rule.

Opinion 17-150 ... (4) A judge who knows he/she must disqualify him/herself in a particular case must do so at the outset and may not first conduct an arraignment or sign a search warrant application.

Opinion 15-126  ...  (3) During the disqualification period, the judge may not appoint his/her former partners or associates to fiduciary positions. ... (5) The propriety of issuing a “blanket” disqualification order to facilitate assignment of certain cases to another judge is an administrative question which the Committee may not address.

Opinion 14-192 A supervising judge, who handles a trial assignment part and is disqualified from presiding in cases where certain attorneys appear, must disqualify him/herself from assigning those cases if the judge must exercise his/her discretion in making the assignment.

Opinion 14-189 Under the specific circumstances presented, where a judge has issued a written decision indicating the judge’s impartiality has been compromised in a new case involving a particular litigant, based on the litigant’s recent disparaging remarks about the judge in connection with a recently concluded case, the judge must disqualify him/herself from all cases involving the litigant, including in any post-judgment proceedings in the recently concluded case, and the disqualification is not subject to remittal.

Opinion 14-121 A judge who chose to recuse him/herself in one case after a litigant filed a complaint about the judge may nonetheless preside over other cases in which that litigant appears, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 14-78 If a Surrogate determines that an interested party is legally in default, remittal of disqualification may be achieved without informing the defaulting party of the basis of the disqualification, and without obtaining the consent of the defaulting party.

Opinion 13-54 A part-time judge who has adopted reasonable procedures to avoid presiding over matters in which current and recent former clients of his/her law firm appear, and then learns that he/she has nonetheless inadvertently presided over a matter in which one party was a recent former client, has no obligation to disclose that the defendant is a former client of the judge’s law firm or to take any further action.

Opinion 12-25 A judge who is disqualified from presiding over matters where a particular attorney appears may not "so-order" stipulations entered into by that attorney.

Opinion 11-88 Where a judge has decided, for personal reasons, to disqualify from all cases involving a particular attorney, who is “a principal partner” in a law firm, must the judge also disqualify when other partners or associates from the firm appear?

Opinion 09-223 A town justice who disqualifies him/herself from all cases involving a particular attorney must do so at the outset of each case, and may not conduct an arraignment before doing so.

Opinion 09-188 A judge who cannot be impartial when a certain attorney appears in the judge’s court must disqualify him/herself from the attorney’s cases. There is no provision in the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct that permits a judge to prevent an attorney from appearing in the judge’s court.

Opinion 09-145 A judge’s relationship to an assistant district attorney (within the fourth degree) does not require recusal where the judge’s only functions regarding the grand jury proceedings are ministerial in nature.

Opinion 09-100 (1) A judge may not permit a lawyer who rents part of the law office suite from the judge and does “of counsel” work for the judge’s law practice to appear before either judge who presides in the judge’s court. (2) The judge should not transfer the lawyer’s cases to another court solely for the purpose of allowing him/her to continue the representation.

Opinion 09-61 A judge who must disqualify him/herself in criminal cases because he/she is the District Attorney’s 4th degree relative, nevertheless may preside when a defendant who previously has been arraigned thereafter appears in the judge’s court without representation and requests an adjournment to secure representation, as long as the judge will grant the adjournment.

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