Pilot Project: Subject Matter Index

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Disciplinary Obligations; Reporting Illegal or Unethical Conduct

(See generally 22 NYCRR 100.3[D].)

Sub-Topics: Conduct by Attorneys or Law Firms | by Other Judges | by Court Personnel | by Litigants, Witnesses, and Others | Unauthorized Practice of Law | General Principles - Timing of Making Report; Effect of Prior Reports; No Duty to Investigate; No Duty to Self-Report

... by Attorneys or Law Firms

Opinion 19-107 (1) On these facts, where a judge, in the course of his/her judicial duties, becomes aware of a party’s apparent attempt to undermine the judge’s judicial decision by filing a declaratory judgment action in another court and seeking a default judgment without disclosing related actions, the judge may, but is not required to, inform the other judge of the relevant facts. If the judge chooses to contact the other judge, he/she must do so in writing and copy both sides. (2) Where the judge further concludes the attorney-defendant and his/her counsel both deliberately submitted materially false documents in an apparent attempt to hinder an unrepresented judgment creditor’s efforts to collect a lawful judgment through fraud or deception, the judge must report both attorneys to the grievance committee. (3) The judge may wait until the conclusion of the proceeding before reporting the attorneys.

Opinion 19-90 Where a law firm’s former paralegal apparently forged the judge’s signature on a divorce judgment and pretended it had been appropriately filed, and the judge has serious concerns about the firm’s supervision of and reliance on the paralegal, the judge: (1) must report the conduct to the grievance committee if the judge concludes (a) the law firm, through one or more of its employees, deliberately sought to deceive the court, opposing counsel, and the clerk’s office and/or (b) one or more responsible attorneys allowed this situation to occur through extreme carelessness in failing to supervise their subordinates...

Opinion 19-57 Under the circumstances presented, the inquiring judges must take action with respect to an attorney’s alleged misconduct, but what action is appropriate is left to their sole discretion.

Opinion 19-48 What are a judge’s obligations on receiving correspondence from opposing attorneys in a case expressing differing views on whether a suspended attorney was wrongly practicing law?

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: ... (4) each judge must consider whether his/her own personal knowledge of the attorney’s overall alleged misconduct and unfitness to practice law as described in the inquiry is sufficiently reliable to satisfy the ‘substantial likelihood’ prong and, if so, he/she must report the attorney; (5) a judge who concludes that he/she is not ethically required to report the attorney may nonetheless exercise his/her discretion to do so; and (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 (1) A judge who suspects the district attorney of possible misconduct, but lacks reliable information evidencing a substantial likelihood of a substantial violation, is not ethically required to take any action concerning the possible misconduct. (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. (3) If a judge concludes that it is mandatory to report an attorney’s possible misconduct under the circumstances known to him/her, but knows the alleged misconduct has already been reported to the appropriate disciplinary authority, he/she need not personally report that alleged misconduct. …

Opinion 18-170 A judge who has personal knowledge that a prosecutor has failed to make certain disclosures to the defense must determine, based on facts and circumstances known to the judge, whether there is a substantial likelihood the attorney’s actions constitute a substantial violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and, if so, must take appropriate action. The judge may, in his/her discretion, wait until the proceeding ends to take any such action.

Opinion 18-140 What are a judge’s obligations on learning that a non-attorney may have drafted legal memoranda for an attorney?

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 18-29 A judge with personal knowledge that an attorney has made perjurious statements in an affirmation must report the attorney to the appropriate attorney disciplinary committee.

Opinion 18-24 A judge need not take any action against an attorney who was the defendant in an uncontested action for annulment based on fraud, where the attorney’s admissions do not suggest the attorney engaged in illegal or unethical conduct.

Opinion 17-158 A judge who believes an attorney has revealed the name of the respondent judge in a disciplinary investigation (1) need not report the attorney to the Commission on Judicial Conduct; (2) has wide discretion to determine whether the information received reveals a substantial likelihood the lawyer committed a substantial violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and, if so, what action is appropriate; and (3) may, in his/her sole discretion, direct the attorneys not to reveal the identity of the respondent judge and remind them of the Commission's confidentiality requirements.

Opinion 17-140 Where a prosecutor has provided certain Brady materials involving a particular police officer in one case, what should the judge do in a hypothetical future case involving the same police officer, if the prosecutor fails to make the same disclosure?

Opinion 17-116/17-132 A judge must determine whether he/she has information indicating a substantial likelihood that another judge or an attorney has committed a substantial violation of the applicable professional ethics rules and, if so, must take appropriate action.

Opinion 17-90 What are a judge's obligations on learning a law firm unilaterally altered an order of protection the judge issued against their client?

Opinion 17-07 Must a judge report an attorney he/she has never met, seen, or interacted with, based solely on information received from the judge’s relatives?

Opinion 17-06 Under the circumstances, is a judge required to take any additional steps in response to second-hand information about an attorney's alleged misconduct?

Opinion 16-159 What are the ethical obligations of a judge who is dissatisfied with an attorney's explanation of the propriety of his/her conduct in connection with a proposed default divorce decree?

Opinion 16-132 Must a judge report a litigant's former attorney for alleged, unspecified sexual misconduct briefly alluded to in open court and in the attorney's absence?

Opinion 16-110 What are a judge's obligations after hearing "confidentially" from another judge about possibly unethical and/or illegal conduct of a local prosecutor, where the inquiring judge has no personal knowledge of such conduct?

Opinion 16-48 Must a judge report an attorney if he/she believes the attorney is improperly attempting to include personal information about the judge's family in the record?

Opinion 16-39 What are a judge's obligations with respect to reporting attorneys for improper use of their firm's IOLA account?

Opinion 15-231 What standards should a judge consider in determining whether he/she must take action concerning apparent misconduct by an attorney who is involved in a proceeding before the judge? May the judge wait until the proceeding ends before taking such action?

Opinion 15-183 What are a judge's disciplinary obligations after learning that a police report contains a defendant's unconfirmed, but also un-denied claim that an assistant public defender directed a racial/ethnic slur toward the defendant?

Opinion 15-180 Where a judge has received information indicating a substantial likelihood that an attorney has committed a substantial violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and has further concluded that the apparent misconduct seriously calls into question the attorney's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law, may the judge nonetheless refrain from reporting the apparent misconduct to the grievance committee if (a) the misconduct was covered extensively in the media and (b) the judge believes the attorney's former employer may have reported the misconduct?

Opinion 15-157 Must a court attorney referee take any action on learning that an attorney briefly spoke to a witness about subpoenaed materials during a recess?

Opinion 15-138/15-144/15-166 How should a judge analyze his/her disciplinary obligations based on second- or third-hand reports of allegedly improper conduct by an attorney?

Opinion 15-135 What are the obligations of a judge who has received a secondhand report of a casually overheard and possibly privileged conversation between an attorney and his/her client, relating to a case before the judge?

Opinion 15-54 Is a judge obligated to report two prosecutors to an attorney grievance committee based on what the judge believes to be professional misconduct?

Opinion 15-22 What action, if any, is a judge required to take when the judge believes an attorney who is running for judicial office made an improper political contribution in violation of 22 NYCRR 100.5?

 

... by Other Judges

Opinion 19-165 A judge who participated in an appeal must report to the Commission on Judicial Conduct a letter he/she received from the lower-court judge whose decision was overturned, because the letter appears to raise very serious questions about the writer’s impartiality, fairness, and understanding of a proper judicial role and suggests an attempt to improperly influence the subsequent disposition of the case before another judge.

Opinion 19-66 What are a judge’s disciplinary obligations, if any, on learning that a judicial colleague has made an apparent legal or procedural error?

Opinion 19-64 What are a judge’s disciplinary obligations, if any, on receiving a judicial colleague’s written communication concerning an ongoing proceeding the colleague has before the Commission?

Opinion 18-165 (1) A supervising judge who concludes that another judge pointed a licensed firearm at a defendant in the courtroom several years ago, in circumstances where he/she would not have been justified in using deadly physical force, must take appropriate action. (2) Where the supervising judge is satisfied that it was a one-time, isolated incident provoked by the other judge’s concerns about his/her personal safety, and the supervising judge has, in consultation with the district administrative judge, counseled the other judge orally and in writing to impress upon him/her that this conduct must never be repeated, the supervising judge need not take any further action. (3) Conversely, if the supervising judge concludes, in his/her sole discretion, that the measures he/she has already taken are inadequate and the incident still raises serious questions about the judge’s fitness to continue in office that must be investigated by the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the judge must report the conduct to the Commission.

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 18-112 Does a judge have any disciplinary obligations on learning that another judge presides in matters involving a lawyer with whom he/she is friendly and formerly shared office space?

Opinion 18-74 When an administrative judge learns that a full-time judge, in his/her capacity as a parent, has provided legal advice to other parents and impermissibly commented on pending litigation beyond the bounds of the judge’s own direct, personal interest in his/her minor child’s education, the administrative judge (1) must take appropriate action but (2) has full discretion to determine what action is appropriate under the circumstances.

Opinion 18-66 Under these circumstances, the inquiring judge has full discretion to take, or not take, any action in response to a co-judge’s conduct.

Opinion 18-10 A judge who has concerns a new judge may not fully understand his/her judicial duties, but lacks reliable information suggesting possible misconduct by the other judge, has full discretion to take, or not take, any action in response to such conduct.

Opinion 17-177 Where a judge has reliable, first-hand knowledge that another judge attempted to use his/her judicial status to influence the bail decision in a family member’s criminal case, but the other judge never revealed his/her name: (1) if the judge knows the other judge’s identity, he/she must report him/her to the Commission on Judicial Conduct; but (2) if the judge does not know the other judge’s identity, he/she has no obligation to investigate or take any further action.

Opinion 17-164 A judge who has reliable, first-hand knowledge in his/her appellate capacity that another judge is willfully disregarding both his/her judicial duties and a court order instructing him/her to perform those duties as necessary for an appeal, to the litigants' detriment, must report the other judge's conduct to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Opinion 17-147 What are a judge's disciplinary obligations on receiving a phone call from another judge concerning an unspecified case before him/her, where the inquiring judge ended the conversation without learning any information sufficient to identify the case?

Opinion 17-135 A judge who has first-hand knowledge that another judge improperly attempted to influence the outcome of a case before him/her must report the other judge to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Opinion 17-116/17-132 (1) A judge must determine whether he/she has information indicating a substantial likelihood that another judge or an attorney has committed a substantial violation of the applicable professional ethics rules and, if so, must take appropriate action. (2) If the judge concludes the two-prong test is met and further concludes that another judge improperly attempted to influence the outcome of a case, the appropriate action is to report the other judge to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Opinion 17-48 What are the obligations of a part-time lawyer judge who concludes that another judge, while presiding over a case, threatened to file a disciplinary complaint against the inquirer unless his/her client settled the case for a particular sum?

Opinion 16-46 Where a judge has serious concerns about inconsistencies at the very core of another judge's testimony on a motion challenging an arrest warrant issued under that other judge's name, how should he/she determine whether reporting is mandatory?

Opinion 15-138/15-144/15-166 How should a judge analyze his/her disciplinary obligations based on second- or third-hand reports of allegedly improper conduct by another judge?

Opinion 15-124 What are a judge's obligations when he/she concludes that another judge has attempted to use the prestige of judicial office to influence the outcome of a family member's criminal case?

Opinion 15-119 Where a county court judge knows only that a town justice presided over an arraignment and then requested the matter be transferred due to a purported conflict, but lacks relevant details of the purported conflict, what (if any) disciplinary obligations does the county court judge have?

Opinion 15-94 What are the obligations of a judge who receives reliable information that a more senior judge, who has administrative or supervisory responsibilities, displayed impatient, discourteous, and undignified behavior on the bench, made unprovoked threats to alter another judge's order in the case sua sponte to suit the more senior judge's personal preferences, and repeatedly refused to consider or decide the issues before him/her?

 

... by Court Personnel (non-attorneys)

Opinion 20-16 On these facts, a judge who learns a non-judge court employee engaged in multiple ex parte conversations with one side in an ongoing contested matter before the judge, and attempted to assist that side by using his/her special access as a court employee to provide insider information and advice, must (1) report the situation to appropriate court administrators, (2) direct the employee to be insulated from further case contact, (3) disclose the incidents the judge has become aware of to the lawyers and parties on the record, and (4) direct the lawyers to admonish their clients not to engage in ex parte communication about the case with court personnel.

Opinion 20-15 On these facts, where a judge discovered a clerical court employee’s apparent misconduct after the affected case had already been adjudicated and the judge has already reported all the facts he/she learned to appropriate court administrators, the judge need not take any further action.

Opinion 19-155 ... (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 18-136 A village justice with no direct or independent knowledge of alleged misconduct by a court officer has no obligation to investigate or take any action.

Opinion 16-103 Where a town or village justice has already reported substantial and troubling irregularities by a co-judge's court clerk to a supervising judge, and taken steps to ensure that the clerk will have no further contact with his/her files, does the judge have any obligation to take further action?

Opinion 15-189 What are a judge's obligations on learning of substantial and troubling irregularities in his/her court arising from the conduct of a former town court clerk, as well as possibly improper behavior by a former town justice?

 

... by Litigants, Witnesses, and Others (non-attorneys)

Opinion 20-17 A judge may, but is not ethically required to, report a non-attorney who attempted to appear before the judge on behalf of a “client.”

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. ...

Opinion 19-123 Where a judge believes a county official, who is neither an attorney nor a judge, is incapable of meeting the requirements of his/her position, must he/she report the official to his/her employer?

Opinion 19-96 Must a judge report to the District Attorney that a non-party appeared as counsel in a case before him/her in violation of Judiciary Law §478?

Opinion 19-90 Where a law firm’s former paralegal apparently forged the judge’s signature on a divorce judgment and pretended it had been appropriately filed, and the judge has serious concerns about the firm’s supervision of and reliance on the paralegal, the judge ... (2) need not take any action concerning the former paralegal, who is neither an attorney nor a judge. As always, if the judge believes the conduct was unlawful, the judge may, in his/her sole discretion, report it to an appropriate prosecutor’s office and/or law enforcement.

Opinion 19-84 Where a judge believes a recording, disclosed in an unsuccessful defense motion for a protective order in a now-completed criminal trial, reveals illegal conduct by a non-attorney/non-judge third party: (1) the judge may, but need not, provide a copy to the prosecutor; and (2) absent a law or ethics rule requiring defense counsel to produce the recording, the judge need not take any action concerning defense counsel's failure to do so.

Opinion 19-54 Must a judge contact the DA’s office on learning that the DA’s non-attorney diversion program coordinator purportedly gave advice to a defendant concerning a guilty plea?

Opinion 19-45 A support magistrate may report a litigant’s apparently criminal conduct to law enforcement but is not ethically required to do so. Whether and how he/she may do so in compliance with applicable statutes and regulations raises a legal question, not one of judicial ethics.

Opinion 19-26 What ethical obligations does a judge have on learning of possible criminal activity by his/her tenant on premises the judge owns?

Opinion 19-10 Must a judge report his/her former housekeeper who has disclosed an ongoing medical fraud to the judge?

Opinion 18-150 Must a judge report a non-attorney defendant who, on the eve of sentencing, falsely alleged that he/she knew the judge socially?

Opinion 18-140 What are a judge’s obligations on learning that a non-attorney may have drafted legal memoranda for an attorney?

Opinion 18-28 (1) The judiciary has a strong interest in bringing to light possible repeated or systemic perjury or corruption on the part of institutional witnesses which, if unaddressed by appropriate authorities, could adversely affect the judicial process and undermine public confidence in the judiciary. (2) Thus, a judge, any time in his/her sole discretion, may forward published decisions that appear to involve corrupt or perjured police officers to an appropriate investigative authority, including a police department's Inspector General. Such conduct is not impermissible merely because the Inspector General requested them. (3) Absent a legal duty to comply with the Inspector General's request, a judge may, in his/her sole discretion, decline to respond.

Opinion 17-07 Must a judge report a real estate agent who forged his/her name on a letter of reference, mentioned the judge’s judicial status, and submitted the letter to a co-op board without the judge’s knowledge or consent? 

Opinion 16-154 May a judge disclose his/her habitability concerns to a local code enforcement officer? May the judge also issue a warrant for the code enforcement officer to enter the premises?

Opinion 16-25 May a judge notify a police officer's commander of the officer's non-compliance with a legal mandate?

Opinion 15-153 Must a judge report to the probation department that an individual appearing before the judge has violated his/her probation?

 

Unauthorized Practice of Law / Ghostwriting

Opinion 20-17 A judge may, but is not ethically required to, report a non-attorney who attempted to appear before the judge on behalf of a “client.”

Opinion 19-96 Must a judge report to the District Attorney that a non-party appeared as counsel in a case before him/her in violation of Judiciary Law §478?

Opinion 19-54 Must a judge contact the DA’s office on learning that the DA’s non-attorney diversion program coordinator purportedly gave advice to a defendant concerning a guilty plea?

Opinion 19-48 What are a judge’s obligations on receiving correspondence from opposing attorneys in a case expressing differing views on whether a suspended attorney was wrongly practicing law?

Opinion 18-140 What are a judge’s obligations on learning that a non-attorney may have drafted legal memoranda for an attorney?

 

General Principles - Timing of Making Report; Effect of Prior Reports; No Duty to Investigate; No Duty to Self-Report

Opinion 19-107 (3) The judge may wait until the conclusion of the proceeding before reporting the attorneys.

Opinion 18-176/18-176(A)/18-177 (3) If a judge concludes that it is mandatory to report an attorney’s possible misconduct under the circumstances known to him/her, but knows the alleged misconduct has already been reported to the appropriate disciplinary authority, he/she need not personally report that alleged misconduct.

Opinion 18-170 A judge who has personal knowledge that a prosecutor has failed to make certain disclosures to the defense must determine, based on facts and circumstances known to the judge, whether there is a substantial likelihood the attorney’s actions constitute a substantial violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and, if so, must take appropriate action. The judge may, in his/her discretion, wait until the proceeding ends to take any such action.

Opinion 18-58 (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 17-177 Where a judge has reliable, first-hand knowledge that another judge attempted to use his/her judicial status to influence the bail decision in a family member’s criminal case, but the other judge never revealed his/her name: ... (2) if the judge does not know the other judge’s identity, he/she has no obligation to investigate or take any further action.

Opinion 17-156 Must a full-time judge report him/herself to the Commission Judicial Conduct on realizing he/she improperly joined a for-profit investment club ?

Opinion 15-231 ...May the judge wait until the proceeding ends before taking [any disciplinary] action [against an attorney]?

Opinion 15-180 Where a judge has received information indicating a substantial likelihood that an attorney has committed a substantial violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and has further concluded that the apparent misconduct seriously calls into question the attorney's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law, may the judge nonetheless refrain from reporting the apparent misconduct to the grievance committee if (a) the misconduct was covered extensively in the media and (b) the judge believes the attorney's former employer may have reported the misconduct?

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Public Advocacy or Public Comment; Fund-Granting Recommendations

(See e.g. 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][1]-[2]; 100.4[C][3]b][iii]; 100.5; 100.2[C]; 100.3[B][8]; et al.)

Sub-Topics: Administrative Hearings, Proceedings, or Applications | Amicus Briefs | Assigned Counsel Plan | Bail Reform | Clemency, Parole, or Pardon | Constitutional Convention | Court Structure, Operations, or Funding; Terms and Conditions of Judicial Service; Court Personnel | Executive or Legislative Policy | Funding Recommendations | Legislative Advisory Committee | Local Law or Policy | Litigation | Media | Penal Law | Redistricting| Substantial Local Controversy| Union Contract Renewal

Opinion 20-112 Where multiple high-profile, racially-charged incidents of police violence have resulted in ongoing or reasonably foreseeable litigation and intense local and national controversy, a judge may not participate in an initiative designed to (a) promote trust and open dialogue between activists and police concerning those incidents and/or (b) recommend changes to current police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices. [NOTE: This opinion addresses Executive Order 203.]

Opinion 20-96 A part-time judge may serve on a county executive’s working group to review training at the county police academy, where the group’s membership is balanced and its goal is to help reduce and eliminate implicit bias. The judge must, however, be mindful of the need to maintain public confidence in his/her impartiality and must take particular care not to comment on any pending or impending case in the United States or its territories.

Opinion 20-92/20-93 On these facts, a judge may not participate in a silent “walk for justice.”

Opinion 20-70 Where a not-for-profit, non-partisan town Grange engages in significant educational initiatives to promote rural interests and an appreciation of agriculture but also engages in advocacy and lobbying with local governments concerning local laws, policies and regulations, a town judge (1) may join the entity as a regular member but (2) must not assume leadership roles in the entity or otherwise publicly associate him/herself with organizational positions on controversial issues.

Opinion 20-64 May a part-time lawyer judge ... (3) as a full-time college professor, comment on cases, regulations, or politics...?

Opinion 20-38 (1) A judge may discuss pending or impending matters with other judges and court clerks at a magistrate’s association meeting, assuming this is a confidential setting with no others present. (2) Where a judicial association’s email contact list includes individuals who are not judges or court personnel, a judge cannot assume the emailed discussions are confidential or private and therefore must take particular care to observe generally applicable limitations on judicial speech.

Administrative Hearings, Proceedings, or Applications

Opinion 19-152 May a full-time judge appear at an upcoming agency meeting in support of a not-for-profit entity’s license application, where the judge is a co-founder, officer and director of the entity, and has specialized professional skills and training relevant to the license application?

Opinion 19-126 May a full-time judge, as one of two directors of a not-for-profit entity, speak at a public hearing before a regional EMS council concerning the entity's application for a license to own and operate an emergency vehicle?

Opinion 15-92(B) May a judge write and forward a consular letter of invitation inviting family members to visit the judge in the United States, where this letter will set forth facts concerning the judge's income and its source in order to demonstrate that the judge is a responsible person who is able to meet the material and accommodation needs of the persons invited? If so, may the judge use judicial stationery for such a letter?

Amicus Briefs

Opinion 19-159 A judicial association may not submit an amicus curiae brief in an Article 78 proceeding against an individual judge.

Opinion 16-178 A judicial association may not submit an amicus brief to the Court of Appeals in a pending appeal to express its members' concern, as trial judges, about the practical effects of a recent Appellate Division decision that trial judges lack statutory authority to take a particular action in connection with sentencing. The judicial association and/or individual judges may instead propose changes to applicable statutes which affect sentencing procedures in their courts. However, if it is not possible to advocate for the desired statutory change without publicly commenting on a specific, identifiable case, they must wait until the case is completely resolved.

Assigned Counsel Plan

Opinion 16-145 May a county Magistrates Association, at the request of a bar association and the county executive, comment on the bar association's proposed assigned counsel plan before it is implemented by the county?

Bail Reform

Opinion 20-42 Subject to generally applicable limits on judicial speech and conduct, a judge may publicly comment on the recently enacted bail reform legislation to identify perceived strengths and weaknesses and to suggest the legislature seek additional comments or testimony to improve the law. On these facts, given the controversial nature of the topic, the judge should not refer to his/her current or prior affiliation with a court committee or judicial association unless that entity authorizes him/her to do so.

Opinion 18-78 May a magistrates' association issue a resolution supporting or opposing changes in the law concerning a local judge's ability to set bail in various misdemeanor cases? If so, is it also ethically permissible to send the resolution to local legislators and/or the press?

Opinion 18-15 A judge may not serve on a local committee to address bail reform whose membership will consist exclusively of defense representatives and community members since the organizers have declined to invite any prosecutorial, police, or law enforcement agency representatives.

Clemency, Parole, or Pardon

Opinion 19-95 May a judge write a letter in support of an inmate’s clemency application at the request of the inmate or his/her attorney, describing the judge’s personal observations of the inmate’s participation and leadership role in a youth outreach program offered at the correctional facility where the inmate is incarcerated?

Opinion 19-21 A judge may not suggest or recommend that an inmate make an application to the governor’s office of clemency nor may the judge take affirmative actions in furtherance of that suggestion or recommendation.

Opinion 17-77 A judge may be a housing resource for a third-degree relative on parole, but may not use the prestige of judicial office to seek exceptions to the parole board's procedures.

Opinion 16-27 May a judicial hearing officer write a letter supporting an inmate's efforts to gain parole and/or clemency?

Constitutional Convention

Opinion 19-120 (1) A full-time judge and a judicial association may publicly support or oppose proposed legislative or constitutional changes affecting court structure, court operations or the terms or conditions of judicial service, and may do so by (a) writing and submitting letters, articles, or editorials to newspapers and other publications; (b) advocating in person or in writing to public officials, governmental bodies, and labor unions; (c) testifying at public hearings; and (d) speaking at public or private forums, other than partisan political gatherings or meetings of a political party or committee. (2) A judge and judicial association should use discretion when expressing a position on social media.

Opinion 16-94 May a judge take a public position on whether a constitutional convention should be convened in an upcoming referendum?

Opinion 16-60 May a judge join an informal discussion group with politically connected people to develop detailed proposals for redistricting reform, comprehensive election and voting reforms, restructuring the legislature, changes in school funding, and other highly controversial or political matters?

Court Structure, Operations, or Funding; Terms/Conditions of Judicial Service

Opinion 19-120 (1) A full-time judge and a judicial association may publicly support or oppose proposed legislative or constitutional changes affecting court structure, court operations or the terms or conditions of judicial service, and may do so by (a) writing and submitting letters, articles, or editorials to newspapers and other publications; (b) advocating in person or in writing to public officials, governmental bodies, and labor unions; (c) testifying at public hearings; and (d) speaking at public or private forums, other than partisan political gatherings or meetings of a political party or committee. (2) A judge and judicial association should use discretion when expressing a position on social media.

Opinion 18-08 A judge, who is working with prosecutors and defense lawyers to establish a local problem-solving court addressing mental health issues, may ask state legislators for financial support for this project.

Opinion 17-123 A judge who presides in veterans treatment court may write to legislators asking for names of potential peer mentors to work with veteran-defendants in the program, provided the judge avoids both actual coercion and its appearance when requesting participation. Alternatively, the judge may authorize his/her resource coordinator or mentor coordinator to write such a letter.

Opinion 16-116 May a full-time judge who presides over criminal arraignments appear at public meetings of the county legislature and other governmental boards or agencies to advocate for: ... (2) "a centralized district court or arraignment court to speed the process and assure that the People and the defendant are represented"?

Opinion 16-89 Where a municipality has previously declined to add court officers' names to a memorial honoring first responders who died during rescue efforts following a terrorist attack, may a judge nonetheless write a letter urging the municipality to add those names?

Opinion 15-98 May a magistrates' association send a letter expressing its position on legislation addressing a perceived disparity in the distribution of monies collected by New York's town and village courts, which affects the operation of such courts?

Opinion 15-48 May a magistrates' association publicly support a resolution urging a legislative change to assist local taxpayers in funding their local justice courts?

Executive or Legislative Policy

Opinion 19-106 A judge may not write or join an article or editorial on issues of substantial public controversy involving American foreign policy and military operations.

Opinion 17-38  ... (2) May a judge (a) call a Senate Committee to express an opinion on a pending federal executive branch appointment; (b) sign a MoveOn.org petition concerning a federal executive branch appointment; and/or (c) participate in a local political rally, march or demonstration sponsored by grassroots organizations? 

Funding Recommendations

Opinion 18-185 A judicial association and its members may express views supporting or opposing a funding increase for the Commission on Judicial Conduct in next year's budget both (1) in writing to the Governor and members of the legislature; and (2) in meetings with members of the Executive Chamber or members of the legislature.

Opinion 16-116 May a full-time judge who presides over criminal arraignments appear at public meetings of the county legislature and other governmental boards or agencies to advocate for: (1) increased staffing for the District Attorney and Public Defender so they can appear at criminal arraignments and perform their other duties and/or (2) "a centralized district court or arraignment court to speed the process and assure that the People and the defendant are represented"?

Opinion 16-95/16-107 May a judge write a letter on behalf of a not-for-profit organization's grant application to improve the law, the legal system and the administration of justice, where the application (if granted) will specifically assist crime victims?

Opinion 16-02 May a judge partner with, or commit the court to partner with, entities applying for a grant to create a domestic violence advocacy program? May the judge or the court participate in the ongoing administration of the resulting advocacy program?

Opinion 15-48 May a magistrates' association publicly support a resolution urging a legislative change to assist local taxpayers in funding their local justice courts?

Legislative Advisory Committee

Opinion 16-127 May a judge serving on an official court-sponsored legislative advisory committee participate in committee discussions relating to an ongoing proceeding?

Local Law or Policy

Opinion 19-137 A town justice may not write the town board expressing his/her personal view that a newly enacted local law was poorly drafted and offering proposed amendments to solve the problem.

Opinion 19-135 A town justice must not lobby the town board to adopt a policy prohibiting civil immigration arrests in the town court while a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of such arrests in New York's courthouses remains pending or impending.

Opinion 17-18 A part-time judge may suggest that local legislators amend a penal statute to include a potential jail sentence so that, for alleged violations after the effective date, the court may issue an arrest warrant to produce recalcitrant defendants.

Opinion 16-78 May a town judge express his/her views to the town board concerning a proposed change to a local speed limit and its likely effect on public confidence in the courts?

Litigation

Opinion 19-133 (1) A part-time attorney judge who is opposing a motion to remove him/her as an attorney in a pending case may respond to media questions concerning the motion in his/her capacity as an attorney, provided he/she makes no reference to his/her status as a judge. (2) If the judge believes governing law prohibits him/her from providing certain details concerning the litigation, he/she may say so publicly.

Opinion 16-127 May a judge serving on an official court-sponsored legislative advisory committee participate in committee discussions relating to an ongoing proceeding?

Opinion 16-33 May a judge write a letter on behalf of a family member who has a criminal case pending in another state? Does it make a difference if the judge does not reveal his/her judicial status but writes solely in his/her personal capacity as the defendant's relative and as an individual who has previous professional experience as a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and a quasi-judicial official?

Opinion 16-62 May a judge who is a respondent in a CPLR Article 78 proceeding seeking to annul/vacate the judge's order in a pending criminal case comment on the criminal case in his/her answer or appearance in the proceeding?

Opinion 15-61 May a judge appear on a panel program to discuss a decision recently issued by the judge, when the time to appeal has not expired and an attorney who argued the case before the judge would be a fellow panelist?

Media

Opinion 15-165 May a judge provide the court's internal weekly case summaries to a newspaper for publication?

Penal Law

Opinion 16-135 May a judge publicly advocate for a change in the Penal Law by writing to executive and legislative bodies and/or officials, as well as other potentially interested parties? Must the judge notify local prosecutors and/or defense counsel of his/her proposal so they can respond to it?

Redistricting

Opinion 16-60 May a judge join an informal discussion group with politically connected people to develop detailed proposals for redistricting reform, comprehensive election and voting reforms, restructuring the legislature, changes in school funding, and other highly controversial or political matters?

Opinion 15-188 May a judge become involved in legislative redistricting under the facts presented?

Substantial Local Controversy

Opinion 19-106 A judge may not write or join an article or editorial on issues of substantial public controversy involving American foreign policy and military operations.

Opinion 19-29 A full-time judge ... (2) may not volunteer as an escort for individuals unknown to the judge who are visiting an abortion clinic in the presence of pro-life protesters.

Opinion 17-70 (1) A court attorney-referee who is an ordained rabbi may teach, preach, and write on Israel-related issues concerning the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, but not on non-legal matters of substantial public and political controversy, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Opinion 17-38 (1) May a judge participate in the upcoming March for Science?

Opinion 16-89 Where a municipality has previously declined to add court officers' names to a memorial honoring first responders who died during rescue efforts following a terrorist attack, may a judge nonetheless write a letter urging the municipality to add those names?

Opinion 16-60 May a judge join an informal discussion group with politically connected people to develop detailed proposals for redistricting reform, comprehensive election and voting reforms, restructuring the legislature, changes in school funding, and other highly controversial or political matters?

Union Contract Renewal

Opinion 15-120 May a judge join in an advertising campaign intended to lobby political support and funding for union contract renewals for the judge's alma mater?

 

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Reference Letters (Job, School, Award); Fact Witness; Character Witness; Testimonials; Miscellaneous Intervention in Ongoing Applications or Proceedings

(See 22 NYCRR 100.2[C].)

Reference for Job, School or Award

Opinion 19-116 Where a judge has relevant personal knowledge of a job applicant, a familial relationship between them is no bar to providing an employment reference. Thus, a judge may write an employment reference letter for a relative just as he/she would for other applicants unrelated to the judge.

Opinion 19-118 May a judge send an employment reference letter on behalf of a longtime friend to a prospective employer that does not appear before him/her?

Opinion 17-134 (2) May a judge provide an employment reference for an attorney who is a former colleague? What are the judge's ethical obligations in matters involving the attorney and his/her new employer if he/she does provide a reference?

Opinion 16-38 May a judge presiding in a large urban criminal court write a reference for a police officer seeking to be promoted based on personal knowledge of the officer, which predates the judge's assumption of judicial office?

Opinion 15-173 May a judge write a letter supporting a court officer's request to be assigned to the judge's courthouse?

Opinion 15-139/15-140 May a judge serve as a reference for someone who recently appeared before the judge as a defendant/participant in a treatment-oriented problem-solving court?

Opinion 15-101 May a judge who presides in a treatment-oriented problem solving court serve as a job reference for a defendant/participant who recently appeared before the judge, where the judge would merely provide objective observations based on reliable personal knowledge about the individual, drawn from many months of regular court appearances, reports and discussions?

Opinion 15-64 May a judge permit two defense attorneys who regularly appear before him/her to include the judge's name as a reference on an application nominating the judge's court attorney for an award from a legal publication?

Fact Witness

Opinion 19-79 A supervising judge who received a request from the Commission on Judicial Conduct for counseling memos, corrective action plans, and personal notes related to his/her supervision of certain judges currently under disciplinary investigation is not ethically required to provide such materials voluntarily.

Opinion 18-176/18-176(A)/18-177 ... (7) A judge who is a potential fact witness in the case may, but is not required to, volunteer objective factual information concerning his/her personal observations to counsel for either side.

Opinion 18-138 (1) A judge with personal knowledge of relevant facts may testify as a fact witness in an attorney disciplinary proceeding, either voluntarily or pursuant to a subpoena. (2) The judge may provide a written factual statement at the request of the attorney’s lawyer, but its admissibility is a legal question.

Opinion 18-115 A judge may provide a letter to both sides in an ongoing proceeding which includes an excerpt from the transcript indicating that a particular issue has been resolved with no finding of medical abuse or neglect.

Opinion 18-128 May a full-time judge with relevant personal knowledge provide a factual affidavit attesting to the “bona fide good faith marriage” of a long-time friend to his/her immigrant spouse who seeks permanent residency?

Opinion 18-22 A new full-time judge who previously served as guardian ad litem in a federal case may (1) voluntarily provide a factual statement or affidavit about his/her former service as guardian ad litem; (2) respond to the federal judge’s questions about whether a new guardian ad litem should be appointed; and (3) appear pro se concerning his/her fees for work previously performed as guardian ad litem.

Opinion 16-106 May a full-time judge with relevant personal knowledge concerning a neighbor complete a Department of Social Services "Residency Verification" form which (a) requests strictly factual information concerning the names of all adults and children in the home; (b) requires the form be filled out by a professional who knows the applicant and his/her family; and (c) requires the signer to state his/her profession?

Character Witness

Opinion 19-95 May a judge write a letter in support of an inmate’s clemency application at the request of the inmate or his/her attorney, describing the judge’s personal observations of the inmate’s participation and leadership role in a youth outreach program offered at the correctional facility where the inmate is incarcerated?

Opinion 18-135 May a judge submit a character reference letter on behalf of a long-time friend who has been charged with a federal crime?

Opinion 16-41 May a judge, at the request of an attorney who recently appeared before him/her as the subject of a Treatment Court proceeding, voluntarily testify in the attorney's disciplinary proceeding?

Opinion 16-18 May a judge serve as a character reference for a court intern who has applied for a pistol permit?

Ongoing Applications or Proceedings

Opinion 19-126 May a full-time judge, as one of two directors of a not-for-profit entity, speak at a public hearing before a regional EMS council concerning the entity's application for a license to own and operate an emergency vehicle?

Opinion 19-95 May a judge write a letter in support of an inmate’s clemency application at the request of the inmate or his/her attorney, describing the judge’s personal observations of the inmate’s participation and leadership role in a youth outreach program offered at the correctional facility where the inmate is incarcerated?

Opinion 19-21 A judge may not suggest or recommend that an inmate make an application to the governor’s office of clemency nor may the judge take affirmative actions in furtherance of that suggestion or recommendation.

Opinion 15-92(B) May a judge write and forward a consular letter of invitation inviting family members to visit the judge in the United States, where this letter will set forth facts concerning the judge's income and its source in order to demonstrate that the judge is a responsible person who is able to meet the material and accommodation needs of the persons invited? If so, may the judge use judicial stationery for such a letter?

Opinion 15-74 May a judge who has personal knowledge of a convicted defendant awaiting sentencing in federal court, in response to a subpoena, submit an affidavit in letter form to the sentencing judge requesting leniency for the defendant?

Testimonials; Feedback; Reviews

Opinion 19-87 A judge may not write and publish an online review of a personal vacation or a professional vacation organized by a bar association or other professional organization.

Opinion 17-131 May a judge participate in an interview with a not-for-profit entity which provides mediation services in a court where the judge formerly presided?

Opinion 15-193 May a judge write to the director of a federally funded medical facility to express appreciation for care provided to the judge's deceased parent? May the judge send copies of such a letter to federal legislators?

Opinion 15-103 May a judge write a review of the professional services provided by his/her divorce lawyer, on an online ratings service that displays individual reviews directly to the public?

Opinion 15-42 May a judge and his/her family share their experience with a not-for-profit religious organization's summer camp with other families who are considering sending their children to the camp, at the request of the organization?

Opinion 15-21 What are a judge's obligations when he/she learns that the county executive proposes to state truthfully, during an upcoming state of the county address, that the judge is a satisfied user of a county-run public transportation system?

 

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Conflicts; Disqualification

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

Sub-Topics: Court Personnel | Other Judges | Judge's Relatives | Judge's Social Relationships | Judge's Former Employment | Judge's Current or Former Lawyer | Judge's Business and Financial Interests | 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 - Court Personnel

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

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 May a judge whose law clerk becomes the District Attorney preside over criminal cases in veterans court?

Opinion 16-19 May an appellate judge, whose former law clerk is now a support magistrate, 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? Is disclosure required?

Opinion 15-58 May a judge whose court attorney is elected District Attorney preside in cases involving the District Attorney's office?

Opinion 15-14 What steps must an appellate judge take once the judge learns that his/her law clerk is seeking post-clerkship employment?

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.

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 19-12 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 16-162 What are the obligations of a County Court judge whose full-time court attorney is now a town justice within the same county?

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.

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.

Other Concurrent Employment

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 16-142 May a town or village justice permit the part-time court clerk to assume a second part-time position with the same municipality, working for the municipal prosecutor in a strictly clerical capacity?

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

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 15-175 May a town or village justice permit the court's sole court clerk to maintain concurrent clerical employment at a substance abuse facility?

Opinion 15-216 May a town or village justice permit a part-time court clerk to accept part-time clerical employment with a law firm which plans to cease appearing in the judge's court?

Opinion 15-159 May a town justice 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?

Court Personnel's Former Employment

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 20-53 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 20-06 (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 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.

Opinion 16-166 Is a judge disqualified from presiding in matters involving the District Attorney's office where (i) his/her law clerk is a former assistant district attorney and (ii) the law clerk's second-degree relative is currently an assistant district attorney?

Opinion 16-99 (1) Where a chief clerk was formerly associated with a private law firm, what are the judge's obligations when the chief clerk's former employer appears in the court? (2) Is there any obligation with respect to matters involving wills admitted for probate that were previously prepared, witnessed or notarized by the chief clerk while at the firm? (3) What are the judge's obligations when the chief clerk's attorney spouse appears?

Opinion 15-172 Where a judge's law clerk is the former District Attorney, what are the judge's obligations when the District Attorney's office appears?

Opinion 15-204 May a judge preside in a case where the judge's secretary once provided freelance transcription services at an earlier stage while it was pending in another court?

Opinion 15-52 May a judge preside in a case where a clerical court employee, not the judge's personal appointee, had previously provided freelance transcription services to a private attorney?

Opinion 15-233 What are a judge's obligations with respect to matters in which the court clerk was previously involved as a non-supervisory staff attorney in his/her prior employment? Does it matter whether the case will end by consent, default, or dismissal? How long does this obligation last?

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

Opinion 15-115 May a town justice permit the town court clerk to meet with the court clerk's former employer to explain notes the court clerk made during his/her prior employment?

Opinion 15-43 What are a judge's obligations when a case that comes before the judge is one that the judge's law clerk had been personally involved in during the law clerk's former employment in a government law office? What are the judge's obligations with respect to other cases that were pending in that government law office during the law clerk's former employment, where the law clerk was in a non-supervisory role and had no personal involvement in the case.

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

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.

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.

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 19-72 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 16-166 Is a judge disqualified from presiding in matters involving the District Attorney's office where (i) his/her law clerk is a former assistant district attorney and (ii) the law clerk's second-degree relative is currently an assistant district attorney?

Opinion 17-65 Digest: 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.

Miscellaneous Court Personnel Activities and Relationships

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

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 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 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 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 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 18-155 May a judge’s court attorney serve on a community board, engage in charitable fund-raising, or 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 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 17-122 Digest: 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.

Opinion 17-16 Digest: 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.

Opinion 16-64 May a judge preside in matters involving an attorney who is the chair of a political committee on which the judge's court attorney serves? Must he/she insulate the court attorney from such matters?

Opinion 16-133 May a judge preside in matters involving an attorney who has hosted a single fund-raiser for the judge's law clerk's election campaign?

Opinion 16-104 May a village justice permit the court clerk to attend the mayor's regularly scheduled meetings with the village government's department heads?

Opinion 16-54 May a judge preside in a matter involving a defendant who (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? Is disclosure required?

Opinion 16-115 May a judge permit his/her law clerk to teach a class on the Penal Law to law enforcement personnel at a local military facility?

Opinion 16-138 May a judge who wishes to appoint a new law clerk circulate the job notice through a local bar association, specialized bar association committees, and the attorneys who serve on those committees? May the judge ask such attorneys to circulate the job notice within their law firms? Is disclosure or disqualification required?

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 15-132 May a judge hire his/her current law clerk's spouse as the judge's secretary?

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 15-25 May a Family Court judge 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 17-120 Digest: (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.

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; (2) 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?

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Conflicts - Other Judges

Administrative or Supervising Judge

Opinion 16-77 Where an administrative judge has commenced a lawsuit against certain entities and attorneys for alleged misconduct in the judge's court, what are the obligations of judges in that jurisdiction with respect to other cases in which those entities or attorneys appear?

Opinion 17-16 Digest: 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.

Co-Judge

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 17-86 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 May a judge who has the duty of appointing special prosecutors appoint an attorney who is related to his/her co-judge?

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 Is disclosure or disqualification required in a criminal case if a co-judge's spouse has served, or may serve, as a social worker for the defendant on referral by the probation department?

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

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?

Other Judges, Generally

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 May a full-time judge preside in matters involving a public law department headed by a part-time judge?

Opinion 16-54 May a judge preside in a matter involving a defendant who (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? Is disclosure required?

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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

Within First Degree (includes Spouse, Child, Parent)

Relative's Current or Former Counsel; Relative's Current or Former Litigation Opponent (Party or Opposing Counsel)

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.

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.

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. (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 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 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 17-03 Digest: (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.

Opinion 15-96 May a judge receive, 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? If so, what are the judge's obligations when adverse counsel from those cases appear before the judge on unrelated matters?

Opinion 15-33 (1) What are a judge's obligations when the judge's spouse's former law firm appears before the judge, on matters in which the judge's spouse had no involvement, while the law firm maintains a fee interest in eight other cases handled by the judge's spouse? (2) What are a judge's obligations 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 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 16-31 What are a judge's obligations on learning that a lawyer or law firm appearing before him/her is opposing counsel to the judge's attorney spouse in an unrelated action in another court? May the judge continue to preside? Is disclosure required?

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?

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

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 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 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.

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 19-51 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 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.

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. (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.

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

Opinion 17-118 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 17-119 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 17-126 Digest: 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 17-178 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 16-160 What cases may a part-time judge preside over, once his/her first-degree relative becomes the police chief for the municipality where the judge presides? [Caution: Modified by Opinion 19-89 as of 1/1/2020 to say the disqualification is not subject to remittal.]

Opinion 16-74 Where a judge's first-degree relative works for a local hospital, what are the judge's obligations when (1) a party calls witnesses, subpoenas records, or presents exhibits from the hospital or (2) a case involves foster children who have been, or will be, treated in another unit of that hospital?

Opinion 16-03 Where a judge's spouse is a statewide information security officer for the state police and internally advises that agency on technology issues, must the judge disclose the relationship or disqualify him/herself in cases involving the state police?

Opinion 16-44 Where a judge's non-lawyer spouse works for a global insurance company in a mid-level position, with no litigation responsibilities, what are the judge's obligations when that insurance company appears before him/her?

Opinion 16-67 Where a judge's first-degree relative heads the local probation department, what are the judge's obligations in matters where the department's employees appear?

Opinion 15-159 May a town justice 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?

Opinion 16-28 May a Family Court judge preside in matters involving an agency that has hired the judge's first-degree relative for a part-time entry-level job, given that the agency is one where the county department of social services may place a child?

Opinion 15-39 May a judge preside in criminal matters involving domestic violence charges, if the judge 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?

Opinion 15-06 May a town or village justice whose first-degree relative is a social worker in the local probation department's domestic violence division preside in cases involving the probation department and/or allegations of domestic violence?

Opinion 15-05 Must a judge disclose that his/her spouse is the administrative assistant to a councilperson, and in that capacity schedules appointments for the councilperson's constituents with a pro bono attorney, when a litigant who was assisted by the councilperson's pro bono attorney appears before the judge?

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.

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

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.

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 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 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, may the judge preside in matters involving that law firm? How does the analysis change when the spouse's employer switches law firms?

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 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 17-41 Digest: 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 16-111 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 15-150 Where a judge's first-degree relative is a non-supervisory staff attorney for an insurance company, who will not work on any cases in the New York State courts, what are the judge's obligations when that company appears before him/her as a party or as insurance carrier for a party?

Opinion 15-164 May a judge whose first-degree relative is a part-time attorney for the county department of social services preside in criminal cases alleging welfare fraud where the agency is the victim or complainant?

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

Opinion 15-206 Must a judge disclose or disqualify him/herself when the judge's child's election opponent appears before the judge as an attorney?

Opinion 15-212 May a judge preside over cases involving lawyers who sought to contribute to the judge's spouse's recent political campaign?

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

Opinion 15-80 May 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?

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?

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

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 20-25 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 15-163 What are the obligations of a judge who learns that an attorney appearing before him/her made a charitable donation to honor the judge's deceased relative?

Opinion 15-35/15-75 May a judge whose first-degree relative was killed by a driver who was charged with driving under the influence preside over cases involving persons charged with driving under the influence?

Opinion 15-33 (1) What are a judge's obligations when the judge's spouse's former law firm appears before the judge, on matters in which the judge's spouse had no involvement, while the law firm maintains a fee interest in eight other cases handled by the judge's spouse? (2) What are a judge's obligations 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 17-143 Digest: (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.

 

Within Second Degree (includes Siblings, Grandparents, Grandchildren)

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 16-66 Where an attorney's representation of the judge's second-degree relative ended two years ago, but the judge knows the attorney has an outstanding judgment for unpaid legal fees, what are the judge's obligations in matters where that attorney appears?

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 Does the disclosure required by Opinion 14-51 (for attorneys personally involved in prosecuting or defending the judge's second-degree relative) terminate on the judge's relative's death? If not, must the judge now also disclose that his/her relative died, and reveal the cause of death?

Opinion 14-51 (1) May a judge preside after entry of judgment in the trial phase of a judge's relative's criminal proceedings when a prosecutor or defender who was personally involved at the trial phase appears before the judge on unrelated matters? (2) May a judge preside when an attorney who is personally involved in handling the judge's relative's criminal appeal appears in the judge’s court? (3) Must a judge disclose or disqualify when the assistant public defender who was initially appointed to represent the judge's relative on appeal appears?

Opinion 16-57 What are a judge's obligations when his/her second-degree relative, who formerly held a supervisory position in a government law office, becomes the subject of employment discrimination charges filed by a former subordinate?

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

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 What are a judge's disqualification obligations based on his/her second-degree relative's current public sector employment as an assistant public defender?

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

Opinion 16-155 What steps should a judge take on learning that his/her second-degree relative has, in his/her capacity as a member of a religious institution, commenced an informal counseling relationship with a defendant who is appearing before the judge in a long-running high-profile criminal matter?

Opinion 15-18 May a judge preside in cases involving protesters, 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?

 

Within Fourth Degree (includes First Cousins)

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 May a judge preside in matters involving an attorney who previously represented the judge's third-degree relative (a niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, great-grandparent or great-grandchild), after the representation has completely terminated and all fees are paid? Is disclosure required?

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

Within Sixth Degree (includes Second Cousins)

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?

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

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

Opinion 13-114 Must a judge 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?

 

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Conflicts - Judge's Social Relationships

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

Opinion 17-16 Digest: 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.

Opinion 16-114 May a full-time judge preside in matters involving a government agency where the judge's former public sector colleague and current social acquaintance has a high-ranking position?

Opinion 15-185 What are a court attorney-referee's obligations when an attorney appearing before him/her is the sibling of the referee's close personal friend?

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 15-45 May a judge preside in cases involving a government law office, once the judge's former close personal friend and law partner assumes a supervisory position in the 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 17-92 Digest: 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.

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

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 20-07 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 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 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.

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 19-33 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.

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.

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. (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.

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 18-19 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.

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 18-83 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 18-131 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 18-19 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.

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 17-27 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 16-163/16-170 Where a full-time judge is both a former assistant public defender and a former private law firm partner, and his/her former law firm colleague supervises all attorneys in the Public Defender's office, what are his/her obligations in cases involving the Public Defender's office?

Opinion 16-114 May a full-time judge preside in matters involving a government agency where the judge's former public sector colleague and current social acquaintance has a high-ranking position?

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 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 16-59 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) May an appellate judge who was formerly an equity partner in a large law firm preside in a case involving a party that is a current or former client of the law firm, when represented by a different law firm? (2) How is the disqualification period calculated if there are ongoing financial connections or obligations between the judge and the firm? (3) Must a judge refer to his/her former law firm's conflict databases to determine whether a client relationship exists?

Opinion 15-211 May a judge who formerly served as an assistant district attorney, and whose law clerk was a supervising ADA in the same office, preside in cases involving that office? What are the judge's obligations with respect to the law clerk?

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

Opinion 15-126 (1) May a judge preside in matters where his/her former law partner appears as counsel? (2) May a judge appoint his/her former partners to fiduciary positions? (3) May a judge who previously served as counsel to the public administrator preside over cases in which the public administrator appears?

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 15-67 May a judge who is a former prosecutor preside in a case involving a formerly incarcerated individual's claim of actual innocence, under the totality of the circumstances presented?

Opinion 15-63 May a judge who was "of counsel" to a law firm five years ago, and its tenant a decade ago, appoint a partner of that firm to a Part 36 fiduciary appointment?

Opinion 15-51 Must a full-time judge disqualify him/herself in a case involving a client of the judge's former law firm, where the judge's former law firm still owes the judge undistributed capital but is not involved in the case before the judge, and the judge had minimal contact with this client while with the law firm?

Opinion 15-19 What are the obligations of a full-time judge who learns that his/her former law firm is still using the judge's name in its signage, letterhead, or other materials?

Opinion 15-148 May a judge who formerly represented a particular category of litigants in the specialized court where he/she now sits remain on the private e-mail list for a former colleague's summaries, commentary, and compilations of recent cases?

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 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.

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

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 17-175 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 17-150 What are a judge's disqualification obligations based on his/her former public employment as an assistant public defender and his/her former private law practice?

Opinion 17-162 Digest: 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 17-169/17-170 What are a judge's disqualification obligations based on his/her former public employment as the Public Defender; and his/her prior service as attorney for the child in certain matters?

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Conflicts - Judge's Current or Former Lawyer

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.

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 18-42 (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 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.

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 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 17-76 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 17-111 Digest: A judge may preside over matters involving his/her former matrimonial counsel where the representation was brief and preliminary.

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

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 19-114 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 19-154 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 19-31 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 18-80 (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 18-44(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 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 18-103 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.

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 18-130 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 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 17-67 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 16-175 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 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 16-24 What are the obligations of a judge when an attorney appearing before the judge is currently holding money in escrow for the judge?

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 16-36 (1) May an appellate judge who was formerly an equity partner in a large law firm preside in a case involving a party that is a current or former client of the law firm, when represented by a different law firm? (2) How is the disqualification period calculated if there are ongoing financial connections or obligations between the judge and the firm? (3) Must a judge refer to his/her former law firm's conflict databases to determine whether a client relationship exists?

Opinion 16-63 May a part-time attorney judge's attorney tenant appear before other co-judges of the judge's court, where the judge and the tenant (a) share a fax machine and fax number which is included in their respective stationery, (b) occasionally cover court appearances for each other, and/or (c) permit the judge's receptionist to answer phone calls for the tenant?

Opinion 15-151 May a village justice continue as a client of a salesperson whose spouse is the village prosecutor?

Opinion 15-155 May a judge preside in a matter where the judge and his/her spouse own a de minimis interest in a large corporation that is a party in the matter?

Opinion 15-96 May a judge receive, 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? If so, what are the judge's obligations when adverse counsel from those cases appear before the judge on unrelated matters?

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 15-59 Is a part-time judge who also works for a financial institution disqualified from all matters involving his/her non-judicial employer's landlord?

Opinion 15-51 Must a full-time judge disqualify him/herself in a case involving a client of the judge's former law firm, where the judge's former law firm still owes the judge undistributed capital but is not involved in the case before the judge, and the judge had minimal contact with this client while with the law firm?

Opinion 15-46 Where a judge's real estate purchase contract recently terminated by its terms without a resulting sale, may the judge preside in search warrant applications in which the prospective seller appears?

Opinion 15-32 May a judge who is a resident shareholder and proprietary lessee in a cooperative housing corporation preside over tax certiorari cases brought by the law firm that represents the judge's own building or housing corporation, on behalf of other clients?

Opinion 15-142 May a part-time town judge, who is also executor of an estate that owns real property within the town, retain counsel and petition the town for approval of the beneficiaries' requested subdivision of the property? If so, may the judge thereafter preside when assistant town attorneys appear before the court?

Opinion 15-02 May a judge preside 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 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 17-160 Digest: 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 Digest: (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.

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Conflicts - Judge's Election Campaign or Appointment

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 17-26 Digest: 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 16-168 May a judge appoint his/her former campaign treasurer to serve as a referee in a foreclosure action?

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 16-84 May a judge preside in matters involving an attorney who formerly represented the judge's recent election opponent in an election law case? Does it matter whether the judge previously exercised his/her discretion in favor of recusal?

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 May a recently elected judge preside in cases involving an attorney who previously appeared in the judge's campaign commercial?

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?

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Conflicts - Judge's Prior Judicial Decisions or Actions

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 16-16 May a judge who presided over two related civil actions preside over the losing party's subsequent malpractice action against its former counsel?

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 15-195 May a Family Court judge who ordered a child protective investigation in a case preside over other contested proceedings involving the same family?

Opinion 15-228 May a judge who presides over a re-adoption proceeding involving an attorney thereafter preside in matters involving the attorney and/or his/her law firm? Is disclosure required?

Opinion 16-43 May a criminal court judge who previously presided over an ex parte search warrant application later arraign (1) a confidential informant who testified in support of the warrant and/or (2) the target of the search warrant? Is disclosure or disqualification required?

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Conflicts - Disciplinary Complaints; Lawsuits; Criticism

Complaints AGAINST the Judge

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 20-34/20-35 (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 20-09 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 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 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 17-17 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 16-126 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 16-129 May a judge continue to preside in a criminal case after the defendant, defense witness(es) and/or other individuals connected with the defense have filed disciplinary complaints against the judge? When does disqualification become mandatory?

Opinion 16-11 May a judge who is a defendant in a bank's foreclosure action preside over an unrelated action in which a party has subpoenaed records from the bank, where the bank is a mere stakeholder which has not appeared or taken a position regarding the subpoena?

Opinion 15-218 Is a judge 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 May 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 preside in matters in which attorneys from these offices appear?

Opinion 17-109 Digest: 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.

 

Complaints BY the Judge

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

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 17-71 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 15-117 Where a judge did not personally file a disciplinary complaint against an attorney, but instead encouraged another attorney to file the report and stated that the judge would personally follow through as necessary to ensure a disciplinary complaint was ultimately filed, may the judge preside when the reported attorney appears?

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 Where a judge has filed a disciplinary complaint against the county's District Attorney, may the judge thereafter preside in criminal matters involving the District Attorney's office? The judge notes that assistant district attorneys from that office did not participate in the purported misconduct.

Opinion 15-69 What are the disqualification obligations of a court attorney referee who did not personally report an attorney's misconduct to the grievance committee but instead advised the referring judge of his/her concerns so that the referring judge could make the report?

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 16-23 Where a judge has declined to appoint an expert whose competence the judge questions, and the expert has thereafter tried to pressure the judge into appointing him/her, may the judge preside in cases involving the expert?

Opinion 16-88 May a full-time quasi-judicial official preside in matters involving assistant county attorneys, or other attorneys from county-level government law offices, after he/she sues the local county government? Does it matter whether they would appear before the referee in their official or private capacities?

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

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

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 20-63 (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.

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 20-08 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 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 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 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.

 

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

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 19-153 (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 19-156 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 19-114 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 19-155 (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 19-71 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 18-85 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 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 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 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 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 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 17-105 Digest: 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 17-113 May a judge continue to serve as an acting village justice if his/her spouse is elected as a village trustee? 

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 16-21 May a town justice preside over a bench trial, where a town board member who votes on the judge's salary is a necessary witness whose credibility the judge must evaluate?

Opinion 15-224 May a town justice continue to preside in matters involving the local village police department, after the village police chief is elected to the town board?

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 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 14-120 May a village justice 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?

Opinion 17-50 May a village justice hear a summary proceeding where the village attorney is appearing on behalf of a private client?

Opinion 15-16 May a village justice preside when village police officers appear in the village court?

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.

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Conflicts - Judge's Extra-Judicial Activities

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 07-155/98-31 May a judge serve on a charter review commission to review and proposed amendments to a city or county charter? Does it matter whether the judge is a part-time or full-time judge?

Opinion 15-223 May a judge who is co-trustee of a relative's charitable trust authorize the trust to make charitable donations to not-for-profit entities that regularly appear before the judge, such as legal services providers and agencies to which the judge may make referrals? Is disclosure or disqualification required when a recipient of the trust's charitable donations appears before the judge?

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 15-76 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 May a judge attend (1) an annual fund-raising event for a not-for profit organization that provides services and support to victims of domestic abuse and child abuse and/or (2) 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?

Opinion 15-23 May a judge who teaches at a law school, but has no role in a pro bono clinical program organized as a separate legal entity from the law school, appoint the clinic and its qualified participants to fiduciary positions, and award fees as permitted by applicable rules and law?

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Conflicts - Ex Parte Communications

(See also "Ex Parte Communications")

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 18-99 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.

Conflicts - Miscellaneous

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 (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. (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 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 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 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 17-74 May a judge preside in matters involving a hospital that recently provided emergency medical care to the judge?

Opinion 17-44 Digest: 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 16-175 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 16-156 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 15-147 What is a judge's obligation on learning that he/she should have recused him/herself from a particular case, when the judge learns of this ethical mistake only after he/she had already issued his/her final decision or judgment?

Opinion 15-82 Does a previously granted remittal of disqualification remain effective if a party afterward discharges his/her attorney and proceeds pro se?

Opinion 16-26 Must a Court of Claims judge disclose or disqualify him/herself from cases involving the Attorney General's office, based solely on media efforts to link the judge and his/her spouse with a person whom the Attorney General is investigating?

Opinion 16-120 May a judge who is conflicted from presiding in a criminal defendant's Outley hearing nonetheless resume presiding over the underlying case and sentence the defendant, once the Outley hearing is concluded?

Opinion 16-70 Where a judge is currently disqualified from proceedings involving a particular government office or agency, but has a statutory obligation to administer/oversee that office as a judge, may the judge nonetheless exercise these ongoing administrative or oversight responsibilities?

Opinion 15-208 Where a judge is personally disqualified from certain cases, may he/she nonetheless permit his/her personally appointed principal law clerk to conference those cases, at the request of the judge who has been assigned to the matter?

Opinion 16-30 May a judge preside in matters involving assistant public defenders subject to the supervision of a Public Defender who, in his/her former capacity as a private attorney, had preliminarily and briefly represented the judge in a disciplinary proceeding one year ago?

Opinion 16-138 May a judge who wishes to appoint a new law clerk circulate the job notice through a local bar association, specialized bar association committees, and the attorneys who serve on those committees? May the judge ask such attorneys to circulate the job notice within their law firms? Is disclosure or disqualification required?

Opinion 15-186 Where a judge offered selected attorneys the opportunity to purchase tickets to a local sporting event, and one attorney took advantage of the offer, what are the judge's obligations when the attorney appears before him/her?

Opinion 15-111 Must a judge disclose that he/she responded to a confidential request from a judicial appointments committee for comments on the character, ability, integrity, and temperament of an attorney, when the attorney thereafter appears before the judge? Is disqualification required?

Opinion 15-86 May a part-time lawyer judge preside in cases involving a lawyer who is the sibling of the judge's law firm associate?

Opinion 15-53 Is a judge disqualified from presiding in 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?

Opinion 15-35/15-75 May a judge who was previously a victim of domestic violence preside over cases involving domestic violence allegations?

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 17-105 Digest: 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.

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Mechanics of Disqualification and Remittal

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 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.

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 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.

Business and Financial Activities; Gifts; Non-Legal Outside Employment

(22 NYCRR 100.4[D]; 100.6[B][1])

Sub-Topics: Outside Non-Legal Employment | Ownership Interests; Investments; Ownership, Management or Rental of Real Property | Gifts; Application for Scholarship, Fellowship, or the Like; Free Admission to Events | Miscellaneous Business or Financial Activities

Outside Non-Legal Employment

Opinion 20-76 A part-time judge may accept temporary employment with a bank to assist in evaluating loan applications from small businesses under the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Opinion 20-64 May a part-time lawyer judge ... (3) as a full-time college professor, comment on cases, regulations, or politics; or (4) accept full-time employment as chief clerk of the County Court?

Opinion 20-54 A part-time judge may serve as the security manager for a local racetrack, which is outside the jurisdiction of his/her court.

Opinion 20-33 A part-time judge may not serve concurrently as business agent for a correction officers’ union, where the role requires representing the interests of corrections officers in the legislative or political sphere.

Opinion 20-04 A town justice may not serve as Stop-DWI Coordinator, even in another county.

Opinion 19-32 A part-time judge who is also a full-time college professor may participate in an academic research project analyzing data from the local centralized arraignment part’s first year of operation, and accept compensation from the college for this work pursuant to a grant administered by the office of court administration.

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 18-187 May a town justice serve as the appointed Secretary-Treasurer for the Fire District in the same town in which he/she serves?

Opinion 18-158 May a part-time town justice serve as police chief for a neighboring village, where the village police do not appear in the town court and the position is a “part-time, administrative” one?

Opinion 18-152 A part-time town justice may simultaneously serve as the appointed treasurer of the town’s taxpayer-supported fire district, where the judge has no involvement in the budgeting process but instead pays invoices after the fire commissioners’ approval.

Opinion 18-149 A part-time judge whose court has a significant criminal calendar, in which most defendants are represented by assigned counsel at arraignment, may not serve as deputy administrator of the assigned counsel program.

Opinion 18-148 A part-time justice may accept employment as a contract worker to review the court’s old files for destruction or preservation according to the Office of Court Administration’s records maintenance guidelines.

Opinion 18-106 A full-time court attorney-referee (1) may not teach yoga or meditation classes for a for-profit yoga studio, even if neither the studio nor the referee will benefit financially, but (2) may teach such classes for a not-for-profit organization and may use social media to publicize them.

Opinion 18-77 A part-time judge may maintain concurrent employment as the chief financial officer/treasurer for an airport authority, whose employment duties include oversight of accounting and financial affairs, information technology services, purchasing and procurement and do not involve fund-raising or law enforcement functions.

Opinion 18-52 May a part-time village justice who is also a full-time college professor teach a college course in a correctional facility in another county?

Opinion 18-11 May a part-time judge accept seasonal employment with a company owned by two deputy sheriffs who are employed in the same county, where these deputy sheriffs, and others subject to their supervision, are likely to issue tickets in matters which will be heard in the judge’s court.

Opinion 18-07 May a part-time town justice also serve as a county employee in the same county where he/she presides, either as (1) a senior network administrator for the county government’s information technology department or as (2) director of information technology for the county?

Opinion 17-173 A part-time judge may not supervise the emergency medical services division in the sheriff's office in the county where the judge presides.

Opinion 17-141 Although a part-time judge may accept 18-B assignments, he/she may not serve as administrator of the county's 18-B plan, even if a bar association initially reviews the 18-B vouchers for irregularities.

Opinion 17-136 May a part-time town justice accept paid employment as an advisor to a consulting firm which was retained by a municipality (other than the one in which he/she sits) to conduct a study on the feasibility of subsuming its village court into the larger town court?

Opinion 17-125 A part-time village justice may hold full-time employment as a training director with a city's independent emergency communications department, where he/she oversees training of an all-civilian staff and does not supervise dispatchers or perform dispatch duties.

Opinion 17-103 May a part-time City Court judge also serve as a full-time Executive Director of a not-for-profit alcohol treatment program, to which the judge indirectly makes referrals?

Opinion 17-102 May a part-time City Court judge also serve as a full-time Executive Director of a not-for-profit center for social and criminal justice?

Opinion 17-46 A part-time judge may also serve as head of a county agency responsible for enforcing a particular county law, where the agency is the licensing authority for an industry and has authority to commence civil administrative proceedings but (i) is unlikely to be involved directly or indirectly in any cases in the judge's court, (ii) has no authority to prosecute legal or criminal proceedings in any court, and (iii) has no police powers or functions.

Opinion 17-42 May a part-time judge also be a full-time academic SUNY employee administering and overseeing a SUNY-hosted police cadet academy?

Opinion 16-134 May a full-time court attorney-referee work part-time as a real estate agent?

Opinion 16-87 May a town justice serve as the workplace ombudsman for aggrieved town employees?

Opinion 16-83 May a part-time judge portray a judge in a commercial film?

Opinion 16-58 May a part-time judge conduct background investigations for the United States Office of Personnel Management?

Opinion 16-10 May a part-time judge place classified ads indicating his/her availability to officiate marriages?

Opinion 15-181 May a part-time judge maintain concurrent employment with a private company which provides risk and threat assessments to various entities? (cf. Judicial Independence)

Opinion 15-158 May a non-judge who is currently employed as a peace officer in a community college resign his/her peace officer status and accept a new role as a campus security officer for the same institution, after becoming a part-time judge in a nearby municipality? (cf. Judicial Independence)

Opinion 15-116 May a part-time town justice accept appointment as the town's tax collector?

Opinion 15-20 May a town justice accept concurrent employment as a County Emergency Medical Services Coordinator?

Ownership Interests; Investments; Ownership, Management or Rental of Real Property

Opinion 19-62 A full-time judge may rent an apartment to a court officer who sometimes serves in his/her court.

Opinion 19-60 A full-time judge may be an officer of a company owned solely by his/her third-degree relative, where the company is engaged solely in the business of holding and managing certain intellectual property assets created by a deceased relative.

Opinion 19-09 A full-time judge may take a multi-week improvisational comedy class from a for-profit entity, but may not perform in the graduation show, which charges admission. Additionally, the judge may perform a first-person story about his/her childhood or cultural background only if the entity producing the event is a non-profit and the show is not a fund-raiser. The analysis does not change if the judge performs anonymously and/or uses a pseudonym.

Opinion 18-179 May a full-time judge continue to: 1) serve as an officer and manager of several LLCs that own commercial properties, where the judge and his/her sibling are the sole members of the LLCs; 2) pool monies from these family-owned LLCs to purchase and develop additional residential properties in another jurisdiction; 3) own a realty development corporation which is engaged in constructing a residential property in another jurisdiction; and 4) rent a commercial property in another jurisdiction to a variety of tenants, including attorneys?

Opinion 18-169 A full-time judge may not be a founder of, or serve as an officer in, a business entity that will broker sales of state-licensed marijuana dispensaries in another state. The judge may, however, be a minority shareholder in the company, provided he/she is a purely passive investor with no other role.

Opinion 17-63 May a part-time judge form a company to manufacture and sell custom-made robes to other judges online?

Opinion 17-52 May a full-time judge hold a small percentage ownership in a limited liability company his/her spouse is forming to provide consulting services in his/her field, where the judge will not have any active role in the management or control of the business?

Opinion 16-80 May a full-time judge hold ownership interests in a limited liability company that owns income-producing property, along with the judge's spouse? Does it matter whether the judge holds such interests in an individual capacity or as a trustee of a beneficial trust for a family member?

Gifts; Application for Scholarship, Fellowship, or the Like; Free Admission to Events

Opinion 19-127 (1) A part-time judge may attend out-of-state judicial education courses at the National Judicial College. (2) The judge may apply for and accept an educational grant or scholarship from: (a) the National Judicial College or (b) a County Traffic Safety Board, provided there is no financial or referral connection between the judge and the Board, and there is little likelihood that the Board's investigations and recommendations will become the subject matter of cases before the judge. (3) The judge may not request or accept funds for judicial education from a local Victim Impact Panel, where that organization's sole funding source is fees paid by defendants for attendance at court-ordered sessions.

Opinion 18-133 A judge may accept a prize resulting from his/her purchase of a winning raffle ticket at a charity event.

Opinion 18-124 A town justice, on behalf of the justice court, may accept a testamentary bequest so-ordered by the surrogate’s court to hold a holiday party at the courthouse. The court may invite lawyers to attend the party by posting notices with the bar association and/or at the courthouse.

Opinion 18-64 May a judge attend his/her former law firm’s lavish private anniversary dinner for current and former employees, where the firm and its lawyers do not appear before the judge?

Opinion 18-65 Where a town justice’s caseload includes a variety of cases involving the casino in his/her town, the judge (1) may accept routine perks such as “free play and food comps” from the local casino, provided the judge knows such perks are offered to all similarly situated patrons and the casino is not presently an active participant in a hearing or trial before the judge; but (2) must not accept the local casino’s invitation to attend lavish, expensive, or exclusive events.

Opinion 17-106 May a quasi-judicial official, whose young child has significant developmental and physical limitations, seek financial help and services offered by not-for-profit organizations for the benefit of such children and their families?

Opinion 17-87 May a full-time judge accept an anonymous gift of food, very modest in value, which was left in his/her chambers?

Opinion 17-80 May a judicial association accept a donation of food from a local restaurant for an upcoming cultural celebration open to the public?

Opinion 17-24 Digest: A full-time judge who presides in a high-volume part may hold annual or semi-annual meetings with the attorneys who appear before him/her to discuss administrative issues. These meetings may not involve catered meals paid for by attorneys, but the judge may host "brown bag luncheons" to which the participants may bring their own meals.

Opinion 16-176 A full-time judge may not accept a collectible music album from a press photographer who regularly covers cases in the inquiring judge's courtroom.

Opinion 15-122 May a judge accept the gift of a food platter from a former judge who has resumed the practice of law and is now practicing in the judge's court?

Opinion 15-90 May a judge accept an invitation to attend a bar association's annual dinner as the guest of a law firm, where the cost of the dinner is approximately $500?

Opinion 15-81 May a judge accept a bar association's gift of complimentary admission to an upcoming law-related conference for the judge and a guest, along with food and lodging expenses, where the total value of the gift is approximately $1500?

Opinion 15-72 May a full-time judge attend a dispute mediation service's volunteer recognition dinner?

Opinion 15-57 May a judge accept an invitation to attend and participate in an out-of-state conference on women and justice that is co-sponsored by a law school, a limited liability company, and a law firm? If so, may the judge accept the law school's offer to pay for the judge's accommodations?

Opinion 15-12 May a judge accept free tickets and parking vouchers for a game of his/her choice from a local sports team that has not recently appeared before the judge and is not likely to do so?

Miscellaneous

Opinion 18-133 A judge may accept a prize resulting from his/her purchase of a winning raffle ticket at a charity event.

Opinion 17-156 What steps should a full-time judge take on realizing that his/her membership in a for-profit investment club is not permissible?

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Dual Employment within the Judiciary

(See also "Conflicts - Court Personnel's Concurrent Employment as Part-time Judge")

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 18-162 May a town justice serve concurrently as a JHO?

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.

Opinion 17-184 May a support magistrate also serve as a part-time town justice?

Opinion 17-171 May a part-time town or village justice serve as law clerk to a Supreme Court Justice?

Practice of Law

(22 NYCRR 100.6[B]; 100.4[G]; NY Const art VI, 20[b][4].)

Sub-Topics: Part-Time Judges and JHOs | Full-Time Judges; Acting Pro Se or Advising Relatives; Winding Down One's Law Practice

Part-Time Judges and JHOs

Opinion 20-64 May a part-time lawyer judge (1) practice law before a non-lawyer judge in another town or village of the same county; (2) practice law in County Court or Supreme Court; ... or (4) accept full-time employment as chief clerk of the County Court?

Opinion 20-48 May a part-time lawyer judge handle criminal and traffic defense matters as an attorney in the same county, given that the prosecutors in those cases may also appear in his/her court?

Opinion 20-28 A part-time lawyer judge may not serve as part-time assistant counsel for the Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Opinion 20-12 When a part-time city court judge appears before a full-time judge as an attorney on behalf of a client, the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not prohibit him/her from asking the court to direct a city marshal, rather than the county sheriff, to execute a warrant of eviction.

Opinion 19-160 A town justice may also work as a part-time, nonsupervisory assistant county attorney in the same county, provided he/she has no prosecutorial or quasi-prosecutorial duties and is fully insulated from all matters involving the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s office.

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 19-133 (1) A part-time attorney judge who is opposing a motion to remove him/her as an attorney in a pending case may respond to media questions concerning the motion in his/her capacity as an attorney, provided he/she makes no reference to his/her status as a judge. (2) If the judge believes governing law prohibits him/her from providing certain details concerning the litigation, he/she may say so publicly.

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 19-56 A part-time judge may serve as a Department of Social Services attorney in the same county and handle neglect proceedings in Family Court. However, if the DSS role requires numerous recusals as judge, or becomes involved in prosecuting JD or PINS cases, then the judge must choose between the positions.

Opinion 19-40 A part-time lawyer judge may concurrently serve as in-house counsel to the state’s education department, where he/she will research and draft opinions for the education commissioner in response to appeals from local school board decisions and licensing determinations.

Opinion 19-06 Whether a part-time town justice, who is also a US Air Force Reservist, may continue in office as judge while on extended military orders outside New York raises legal questions the Committee cannot address.

Opinion 19-02 May a part-time town justice serve as attorney of record to other villages and towns inside and outside his/her county, and appear on their behalf in Supreme Court such as Article 78 proceedings, FOIL matters, and civil trespass?

Opinion 18-163 A part-time lawyer judge may provide legal services to a New York State-approved medical marijuana corporation.

Opinion 18-153 A part-time lawyer judge may not represent a private client before the board of assessment review in the same town where the judge presides, but the judge’s partners or associates may undertake the representation provided there is no other ethical impediment and the judge neither participates in the representation nor shares in the fee.

Opinion 18-137 A part-time judge may represent a judge who presides in a different court before the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

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 18-81 A part-time town justice may not accept a part-time counsel position in which he/she would be responsible for improving the delivery of legal services to indigent clients in the judge’s county and would report to the administrator of the county’s assigned counsel program.

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 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 17-180 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 17-172 May a part-time town or village justice serve as the County Attorney or an Assistant County Attorney within the same county where he/she presides?

Opinion 17-141 Digest: Although a part-time judge may accept 18-B assignments, he/she may not serve as administrator of the county's 18-B plan, even if a bar association initially reviews the 18-B vouchers for irregularities.

Opinion 17-62 May a part-time judge accept employment as counsel to the county legislature?

Opinion 17-46 Digest: A part-time judge may also serve as head of a county agency responsible for enforcing a particular county law, where the agency is the licensing authority for an industry and has authority to commence civil administrative proceedings but (i) is unlikely to be involved directly or indirectly in any cases in the judge's court, (ii) has no authority to prosecute legal or criminal proceedings in any court, and (iii) has no police powers or functions.

Opinion 17-45 May a town justice continue to serve as County Attorney in the same county where he/she presides?

Opinion 17-36 May a town justice serve as the town attorney for another town in the same county, where there will be no prosecutorial component to that town attorney position?

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 16-167 May a town justice simultaneously serve as a federal prosecutor?

Opinion 16-143 Digest: (1) Where a part-time lawyer judge's law practice associate is representing a client in another court in the same county before another part-time lawyer judge, the judge may not personally participate in the representation by meeting with the client or discussing the case with opposing counsel, even if such activities will take place away from the courthouse. (2) The judge may nonetheless directly supervise a subordinate attorney who is representing the law practice's clients in such matters, provided such supervision takes place in private, without involvement of the client, opposing parties or counsel, or the court in which the matter is heard.

Opinion 16-137 May a part-time judge accept employment as a salaried conflict defender in the county where the judge presides? If so, may the judge appear as a conflict defender before other part-time judges in the same county who are permitted to practice law?

Opinion 16-119 May a JHO represent clients on real estate transactions and matters in Surrogate's Court in the same county where he/she serves as a JHO? When are such matters deemed "contested" under 22 NYCRR 122.10(c)? May the JHO's law firm colleagues assume the representation on contested matters once the JHO withdraws from the representation?

Opinion 16-72 Where a part-time justice serves as counsel to an association of local government officials and employees, may he/she advise individual members concerning local justice court operational issues?

Opinion 16-63 May a part-time attorney judge's attorney tenant appear before other co-judges of the judge's court, where the judge and the tenant (a) share a fax machine and fax number which is included in their respective stationery, (b) occasionally cover court appearances for each other, and/or (c) permit the judge's receptionist to answer phone calls for the tenant?

Opinion 16-32 May a part-time judge who presides over arraignments and other criminal cases serve as part-time in-house counsel for the local sheriff's office?

Opinion 16-13 May a newly appointed part-time judge continue to represent a client on cases which not only originated in the judge's court, but were previously handled by the inquiring judge's predecessor on that court, and were transferred to another local court only after the inquiring judge assumed the bench?

Opinion 15-205 May a part-time judge serve as Corporation Counsel?

Opinion 15-194 On becoming a part-time village justice, may an attorney continue to practice law as a solo practitioner in the same county where he/she will preside?

Opinion 15-142 May a part-time town judge, who is also executor of an estate that owns real property within the town, retain counsel and petition the town for approval of the beneficiaries' requested subdivision of the property? If so, may the judge thereafter preside when assistant town attorneys appear before the court?

Opinion 15-68 May a judicial hearing officer participate in a bar association's pro bono help desk at a court from which he/she accepts judicial hearing officer assignments?

Opinion 15-09 May a part-time City Court judge concurrently serve in the non-supervisory position of full-time deputy county attorney?

 

Full-Time Judges; Winding Down One's Law Practice; Providing Legal Advice to Family

(See also "New Judges" and Winding Down - Opinion Digests (December 2018) [PDF with links])

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 19-121 A court attorney-referee may not volunteer with a local bar association group by providing pro bono legal services in another jurisdiction.

Opinion 19-85 Although a full-time judge may provide informal, uncompensated legal advice to his/her second-degree relative behind the scenes, he/she may not be included among those permitted, by court order, to review the relative’s litigation opponent’s confidential financial information.

Opinion 19-29 A full-time judge (1) may not provide individualized assistance and guidance to his/her fellow congregants in completing their health care directives but may give a general lecture on the subject; and (2) may not volunteer as an escort for individuals unknown to the judge who are visiting an abortion clinic in the presence of pro-life protesters.

Opinion 18-120 A full-time judge may provide informal, uncompensated legal advice to adult relatives involved in pending or impending civil or criminal proceedings, but may not participate in discussions with their retained counsel, as that constitutes the prohibited practice of law. To avoid even the appearance of impropriety, the judge must not attend meetings with counsel.

Opinion 18-22 A new full-time judge who previously served as guardian ad litem in a federal case may (1) voluntarily provide a factual statement or affidavit about his/her former service as guardian ad litem; (2) respond to the federal judge’s questions about whether a new guardian ad litem should be appointed; and (3) appear pro se concerning his/her fees for work previously performed as guardian ad litem.

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 17-157 May an individual who has recently assumed full-time judicial office: (a) file a closing statement with OCA in an action and have releases signed and mailed; (b) deposit the settlement check; (c) distribute the client's portion of the settlement proceeds; and (d) file a closing statement in an action.

Opinion 17-148 May a full-time judge (1) give free legal advice to union members at a union-sponsored event and/or (2) lecture non-lawyer union members on general legal topics at a union-sponsored event?

Opinion 17-72 May a judge interpose a pro se answer in a real estate case in which the judge and his/her siblings are named defendants?

Opinion 15-200 May a full-time judge serve in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps?

Opinion 15-128 May a new full-time judge, whose former law partner is temporarily unavailable for medical reasons, continue to accept and deposit fees, issue checks to clients and the firm and pay expenses as necessary to wind up the law firm's affairs until the partner recovers or new counsel is hired? May the judge use law firm letterhead after assuming judicial office to explain the circumstances to judges presiding over his/her former partner's cases and to request adjournments as needed?

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Judge as Litigant (Pro Se etc.)

Opinion 20-75 Where a full-time judge has been sued by a former ward, may the judge provide his/her current attorneys with financial information he/she obtained during the guardianship, to assist them in collecting an award of attorneys’ fees from the former ward?

Opinion 20-60 A judge may ask the Commission on Judicial Conduct if they received any complaints against the judge's deceased spouse, but must not use or invoke his/her own judicial title or status in making this request.

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.

Opinion 19-34 May a judge ethically undertake, as a Medicaid planning tool, the process of spousal refusal set out in the Social Services Law?

Opinion 18-160 A full-time judge may bring an Article 81 guardianship proceeding and, if successful, serve as court-appointed guardian for his/her first-degree relative.

Opinion 18-22 A new full-time judge who previously served as guardian ad litem in a federal case may (1) voluntarily provide a factual statement or affidavit about his/her former service as guardian ad litem; (2) respond to the federal judge’s questions about whether a new guardian ad litem should be appointed; and (3) appear pro se concerning his/her fees for work previously performed as guardian ad litem.

Opinion 17-82 A full-time judge, in his/her capacity as administrator of a first-degree relative's estate, may act pro se at the closing for the estate's solely owned real property, where he/she will transfer an administrator's deed conferring ownership from the estate to the buyer, deposit the buyer's down payment into a title company's escrow account, compute and adjust routine home expenses such as taxes and utilities, and exchange checks payable by or to the estate.

Opinion 17-72 May a judge interpose a pro se answer in a real estate case in which the judge and his/her siblings are named defendants?

Opinion 15-131 May a judge who is a party litigant make a legal argument that relies on the judge's judicial status?

Opinion 15-96 May a judge receive, 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?  If so, what are the judge's obligations when adverse counsel from those cases appear before the judge on unrelated matters?

Opinion 15-08 Where a judge is (or recently has been) a party in a contested matrimonial action, and his/her spouse (or ex-spouse) is a private attorney, what are the judge's obligations (1) when the spouse's law firm colleagues appear before the judge on other matters; (2) when the judge's attorney or the spouse's attorney appears; and (3) when an expert who evaluated a marital asset appears?

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Fiduciary Activities; Appointment Powers

Sub-Topics: Serving as Fiduciary; Receiving Court Appointments | Exercise of Appointment Powers

 

Serving as Fiduciary; Receiving Court Appointments

(22 NYCRR 100.4[E]; 100.6[B][1]; Part 36; NY Const art VI, 20[b][4])

Opinion 20-27 A full-time judge may serve as an executor under the will of relatives within the sixth degree of relationship, provided that such fiduciary activities do not interfere with performance of his/her judicial duties and do not constitute the practice of law, and need not formally seek permission to do so.

Opinion 19-125 A part-time attorney judge may continue to represent a client as guardian pursuant to a Part 36 assignment made before the judge assumed the bench. Where the appointment is a continuing one, the representation need not be completed within one year.

Opinion 18-180 May a full-time judge serve as an alternate trustee of the estate of a long-time family acquaintance and former client?

Opinion 18-160 A full-time judge may bring an Article 81 guardianship proceeding and, if successful, serve as court-appointed guardian for his/her first-degree relative.

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 17-82 Digest: A full-time judge, in his/her capacity as administrator of a first-degree relative's estate, may act pro se at the closing for the estate's solely owned real property, where he/she will transfer an administrator's deed conferring ownership from the estate to the buyer, deposit the buyer's down payment into a title company's escrow account, compute and adjust routine home expenses such as taxes and utilities, and exchange checks payable by or to the estate.

Opinion 17-33 May a newly elected full-time judge complete his/her service as executor of a former client’s will by signing a deed necessary to transfer title to an heir?

Opinion 16-164 Digest: A new full-time judge may continue to serve as a receiver in foreclosure pursuant to an appointment received before assuming the bench, provided his/her duties are ministerial in nature and completed within one year, if possible.

Opinion 15-142 May a part-time town judge, who is also executor of an estate that owns real property within the town, retain counsel and petition the town for approval of the beneficiaries' requested subdivision of the property? If so, may the judge thereafter preside when assistant town attorneys appear before the court?

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Exercise of Appointment Powers

(22 NYCRR 100.3[C][3]; Part 8; Part 36)

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 19-22 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 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 18-130 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 17-127 May a Surrogate appoint his/her former law firm associate as public administrator?

Opinion 16-168 May a judge appoint his/her former campaign treasurer to serve as a referee in a foreclosure action?

Opinion 16-65 May a judge who has the duty of appointing special prosecutors appoint an attorney who is related to his/her co-judge?

Opinion 15-126 May a judge appoint his/her former partners to fiduciary positions?

Opinion 15-63 May a judge who was "of counsel" to a law firm five years ago, and its tenant a decade ago, appoint a partner of that firm to a Part 36 fiduciary appointment?

Opinion 14-48 Note Added: On reviewing the opinion, the Advisory Committee realized that its third sentence could be misunderstood. Accordingly, we have changed the phrase “a volunteer position” to “this volunteer position,” effective September 17, 2018. (The change affects appointments made on or after the effective date. Cf. Opinion 16-101.)

 

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Serving as Arbitrator or Mediator

(22 NYCRR 100.4[F]; 100.6[B][1]; NY Const art VI, 20[b][4].)

Opinion 20-79 As long as a JHO remains listed on a court’s assignment panel, he/she may not serve as an arbitrator or mediator for any contested matter in a court in a county where he/she serves on a JHO panel for such court, unless appointed by the court to so serve.

Opinion 18-145 A part-time judge may serve as a volunteer judge for a Peer Court in the judge’s county, subject to certain restrictions.

Opinion 17-25 May a full-time judge serve on the tribunal of a not-for-profit entity as the representative of one of its constituent members, where the tribunal has "jurisdiction to hear and determine controversies and disputes" among various constituent members?

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Extra-Judicial Activities

(See generally 22 NYCRR 100.4.)

Sub-Topics: Speaking; Teaching; Mentoring | Art; Writing; Music | Officer; Director; Non-Legal Advisor | Governmental Committees and Commissions; Public Office or Trust | Fund-Raising; Membership Solicitation | Attending Fund-Raisers; Making Charitable Donations | Bar Associations and Judicial Associations | Fire Districts, Fire Departments, and Fire-Fighting | Religious Institutions | Law Schools | Solemnizing Marriages | Miscellaneous

Extra-Judicial Activities - Speaking; Teaching; Mentoring

Speaking

Opinion 20-72 May a full-time judge appear in a commercially produced documentary concerning a deceased former client and his/her family, where the representation terminated over 30 years ago?

Opinion 19-166 May a full-time judge participate in a local museum’s documentary film commemorating passage of an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

Opinion 20-49 A full-time judge may volunteer as a disc jockey for a not-for-profit college radio station.

Opinion 20-44 A judge may attend and speak at a free elder abuse awareness conference sponsored by a not-for-profit home health care agency, where the program is primarily educational and preventative in nature.

Opinion 19-100 A judge may speak about his/her judicial experiences at a federal legislator’s non-partisan, non-political youth cabinet meeting.

Opinion 19-73 A judge may be the plenary speaker at a non-fund-raising event sponsored by a not-for-profit homelessness services network, where the judge will discuss religious/spiritual issues, mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, and historical/moral progress in community responses to homelessness and will not address funding or government support for the homeless.

Opinion 18-48 May a judge engage in post-screening question and answer sessions and press interviews at film festivals, concerning a documentary film about the judge’s volunteer work?

Opinion 18-61 (1) A judge who attended a private middle school and high school with the assistance of a not-for-profit program that prepares disadvantaged students to attend such schools may be involved in the program’s recruitment efforts just as he/she would for his/her former high school, college, or law school, and therefore may participate in a video recorded interview in which the judge will discuss his/her memories of the program and its impact on his/her career and provide a message to this year’s graduates. (2) The judge may wear judicial robes during the interview but should comply with applicable administrative requirements under Section 29.1 of the Rules of the Chief Judge before permitting any photography or video in the courtroom or chambers. (3) The judge may permit the video to be played at the not-for-profit program’s fund-raiser, provided there is no reference to the judge or the video in advertising the event or in soliciting attendance or contributions. The judge must advise the entity to use the video only for general promotion of the program and/or recruitment of students, but not fund-raising.

Opinion 17-163/18-03/18-21 Subject to certain limitations, a full-time judge may, without compensation, (1) participate in an interview for a commercially produced television documentary series concerning a case he/she prosecuted over a decade ago, provided the case has completely terminated and no related proceedings are pending or impending; (2) appear occasionally on a commercially produced news program hosted by his/her first-degree relative, to share family-friendly jokes or riddles; and (3) appear on a commercially produced news segment in honor of the achievements of individuals who share a particular racial, ethnic, or cultural background or heritage. In each instance, the judge need not conceal his/her identity as a judge or his/her participation in the program but should not personally promote the program to the public at large.

Opinion 18-59 May a judge be interviewed by a news station about an alternatives to incarceration program?

Opinion 18-20 Subject to any required administrative approvals, a court attorney-referee may, without compensation, independently prepare and produce a noncommercial educational video providing legal information concerning the requirements and procedures for entitlement programs such as Medicare or Medicaid. The referee must not refer to his/her quasi-judicial office in the video and must abide by all applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct, including the prohibitions on offering legal advice, advocating particular strategies, and promoting private interests.

Opinion 18-106 A full time court attorney-referee (1) may not teach yoga or meditation classes for a for-profit yoga studio, even if neither the studio nor the referee will benefit financially, but (2) may teach such classes for a not-for-profit organization and may use social media to publicize them.

Opinion 18-107 May a judge accept an invitation from the US State Department, on behalf of an overseas embassy, to participate in a program designed to promote the integration of women belonging to a certain religious group in the overseas host country and also to promote gender-equality and women’s rights?

Opinion 18-126 (1) A full-time judge may not consent to an interview that will be posted exclusively on a private law firm’s website. On learning his/her interview has nonetheless been posted on a law firm’s website, the judge must instruct the firm to remove the post. (2) A judge may not subscribe to a law firm’s blog, even using a personal email address.

Opinion 18-34 A full-time quasi-judicial official may not appear on a private law firm’s podcast.

Opinion 18-132 A full-time judge who presides in criminal cases may participate in an interview with a not-for-profit entity retained by the county legislature to make recommendations concerning jail overcrowding, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct.

Opinion 18-134 A judge may not participate in an interview with a former juror who wishes to write a book about a case over which the judge presided, where related proceedings remain pending or impending.

Opinion 18-127 May a full-time judge attend and participate in an out-of-state conference of tribal judges and allow one of the tribal courts to underwrite his/her travel, lodging, and registration fees?

Opinion 17-84 May a judge give a regionally exclusive newspaper interview about his/her life story, your religious activity, career path and work-life balance?

Opinion 17-117 May a judge permit a non-profit organization to advertise that the judge will be speaking at a non-fund-raising event co-sponsored by several not-for-profit religious and/or educational organizations?

Opinion 17-12 May a full-time judge speak to not-for-profit organizations affiliated with a certain religion, including domestic and foreign parochial schools and places of worship, about his/her background and experience in becoming a judge, so as to encourage others to pursue a legal career?  If so, may the judge accept standard speaking fees and reasonable travel expenses?

Opinion 16-147 May a town or village justice accept an invitation from a landlords’ association to participate in a panel discussion and answer questions about summary proceedings, evictions and holdover tenants?

Opinion 17-57 May a judge participate in a panel discussion concerning current issues in the prosecution of computer crime in the courts of New York, for an association of criminal investigators?

Opinion 17-35 May a judge speak to an audience of animal control officers about court procedures in dangerous-dog and unlicensed-dog cases?

Opinion 15-113 May a judge be the introductory speaker at a Criminal Justice Services Division program focused on discouraging gun violence among probationers and parolees who have no pending charges, where the event will take place at a courthouse, and participants include prosecutors, law enforcement, the Legal Aid Society, social service providers, and community leaders?

Opinion 17-83 May a judge speak on the development of a particular area of law in New York State and in other jurisdictions, at a free, non-political event that is open to the public?

Opinion 15-133 May a judge attend a foreign consulate's reception for its ambassador? May a judge speak at the consulate about the judge's personal experiences in becoming a jurist?

Opinion 16-15 May a full-time judge accept an honorarium for giving the "lesson for the day" at a worship service?

Opinion 16-17 (1) May a judge acting as a leader within a religious organization (a) promote a weekend retreat and/or (b) solicit items for clothing drives, food drives and the like? (2) May a judge be a featured speaker at a religious institution's anniversary banquet?

Opinion 16-69 May a judge serve as master of ceremonies for a not-for-profit community organization's event honoring local religious leaders and a local executive branch official, where "all the proceeds will benefit the youth program"?

Opinion 16-05 May a full-time judge participate in non-commercial podcasts about New York legal issues, or science fiction and comic book characters and legal issues that may arise in fictional works?

Opinion 16-94 May a judge lecture on historical constitutional conventions and procedures?

Opinion 16-22 May a judge read passages from scripture at a religious service?

Opinion 15-179 May a judge give a presentation on recognizing and reducing racial prejudice to an audience consisting exclusively of attorneys who represent a certain category of litigants in a specialized court?

Opinion 15-125 May a judge speak at an academic conference on the topic of international, federal, and state approaches to human rights issues?

Opinion 15-92(A) May a judge serve as an officer of his/her religious institution, preach sermons, make administrative announcements, and allow his/her sermons to be broadcast via live streaming on the internet?

Cf. Opinion 16-115 May a judge permit his/her law clerk to teach a class on the Penal Law to law enforcement personnel at a local military facility?

Opinion 15-79 May a judge participate in a non-fund-raising National Day of Prayer event, lead a prayer, and be identified as a judge?

Opinion 17-54 When giving a speech about the law, the legal system or the administration of justice at a court-sponsored Law Day event, a judge should not publicly criticize or attack a sitting public official, or comment on his/her remarks. Rather, the judge should focus on the law to avoid casting doubt on his/her ability to perform judicial functions appropriately consistent with his/her legal and ethical duties.

Opinion 17-148 May a full-time judge (1) give free legal advice to union members at a union-sponsored event and/or (2) lecture non-lawyer union members on general legal topics at a union-sponsored event?

Opinion 17-115 May a full-time judge participate in an educational video production about multi-systemic therapies, produced by a not-for-profit organization that provides such services, where the video is to be used as an engagement and educational tool for families and systems?

Opinion 17-155 May a judge speak about landlord/tenant law at a free educational forum organized by elected officials?

Opinion 19-146 ...(2) The judge may meet with federal executive branch officials on his/her own behalf to discuss his/her experiences as a disabled individual, subject to certain limitations.

 

Teaching

Opinion 20-31 A judge may teach a law school course based on a now-concluded homicide trial in his/her jurisdiction only if the time for appeals is exhausted and no related matters are pending or reasonably foreseeable. In teaching the class, the judge may only use materials from the public record.

Opinion 19-148(B)...(3) A judge may, as an extra-judicial activity, teach youth court volunteers on both sides about restorative justice issues and court procedures....

Opinion 19-143 A full-time judge may teach law-related classes for compensation at a for-profit college or university, provided such teaching does not conflict with the proper performance of judicial duties.

Opinion 18-168 May a full time judge engage in certain bar association activities, serve on an executive branch official’s committee concerning a new detention facility, and teach at a private law school?

Opinion 18-106 A full time court attorney-referee (1) may not teach yoga or meditation classes for a for-profit yoga studio, even if neither the studio nor the referee will benefit financially, but (2) may teach such classes for a not-for-profit organization and may use social media to publicize them.

Opinion 17-81 May a part-time judge give a presentation on civil enforcement and other related civil matters at an annual training conference for a sheriffs association?

Opinion 16-117 May a full-time judge teach a fitness class for a not-for-profit educational, charitable or civic organization? May the judge accept the organization's standard per-session compensation for instructors?

Opinion 16-76 May a judge serve on the advisory board to an academic/clinical unit within a private law school, even though he/she refers litigants to the unit's treatment programs? If so, what limitations apply?

Opinion 16-93 May a judge place flyers for a not-for-profit bar association's upcoming educational programs on a table in the back of his/her courtroom?

Opinion 15-202 May a full-time judge teach at a continuing legal education program that (1) is advertised in a manner that clearly and improperly implies attorneys attending will be placed in a special position to influence the judge and (2) offers an honorarium designed to maximize the number of paying attendees?

Opinion 16-128 May a judge volunteer to serve as the judge in a mock trial, outside New York State, organized by a private law firm for the benefit of their associates and for in-house attorneys of the law firm's client?

Opinion 15-149 May a full-time judge serve as a paid, part-time adjunct professor at a private law school?

Opinion 15-93 May a judge serve as a panelist in a local college's program on perceptions and realities of the criminal justice system?

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 15-61 May a judge appear on a panel program to discuss a decision recently issued by the judge, when the time to appeal has not expired and an attorney who argued the case before the judge would be a fellow panelist? 

Opinion 15-23 May a judge who teaches at a law school, but has no role in a pro bono clinical program organized as a separate legal entity from the law school, appoint the clinic and its qualified participants to fiduciary positions, and award fees as permitted by applicable rules and law?

Opinion 17-151 A judge may participate in a steering committee that plans an annual educational conference concerning adult abuse, where the conference is unlikely to be perceived as a law enforcement program and the steering committee’s membership includes both defense and prosecutorial perspectives.

Opinion 19-14 A full-time judge may participate in a non-partisan, non-law enforcement-oriented initiative to create an anti-bullying program in schools to prevent or reduce JD and PINS behaviors.

Mentoring

Opinion 18-18 A judge may accompany students to the criminal trial of an individual who is charged with assaulting them, in his/her capacity as their official mentor, provided the judge (1) sits in the audience, (2) does not act as an attorney in the matter, (3) does not have any ex parte contact with the presiding judge, and (4) does not refer to or invoke his/her judicial status or otherwise lend the prestige of judicial office to the students.

Opinion 16-151 May sitting judges serve as mentors to attorneys who wish to seek judicial office, as part of an official court-sponsored program to help promote diversity in the judiciary? What limitations apply?

Opinion 16-124 May a judge mentor a high school student through a not-for-profit mentorship program?

Opinion 16-34 May a full-time judge participate as one of several panelists and mentors at a commercial entity's free luncheon for young people of a particular minority group, when commercial entity has assured the judge in writing that the event is entirely philanthropic, the judge's participation will not be used for promotional purposes, and no commercial activity whatsoever will take place at the event?

Opinion 16-177 May a part-time judge volunteer with (1) a departmental grievance committee's diversion program under 22 NYCRR 1240.11 and/or (2) a local bar association's lawyer assistance committee under Judiciary Law § 499?

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Extra-Judicial Activities - Judge as Artist, Writer, Musician, Inventor

Opinion 20-59 May a full-time judge a full-time judge publish his/her autobiography, and name specific out-of-state doctors or medical entities the judge credits for helping him/her recover from life-threatening medical conditions? May the judge participate in an audiotaped interview and radio program, organized by the publisher, to promote the book?

Opinion 19-101 A full-time judge who has written a law book may permit his/her volunteer assistant to reach out to a relative’s contact at a newspaper for the legal community to ask if they would be interested in reviewing or mentioning the judge’s book.

Opinion 19-09 A full-time judge may take a multi-week improvisational comedy class from a for-profit entity, but may not perform in the graduation show, which charges admission. Additionally, the judge may perform a first-person story about his/her childhood or cultural background only if the entity producing the event is a non-profit and the show is not a fund-raiser. The analysis does not change if the judge performs anonymously and/or uses a pseudonym.

Opinion 18-93 A full-time judge who developed a bar exam study aid and makes it available on an online app store may (1) associate his/her name with the app itself; (2) mention his/her judicial status in an online bio; (3) speak with law school administrators and students about their interest in obtaining the app; and (4) accept income from online sales of the app, subject to reporting requirements.

Opinion 18-47 A full-time judge may participate in a free community performance of The Vagina Monologues by reading short factual/introductory paragraphs. However, if the judge participates in any question-and-answer session with the audience, he/she must abide by all applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct.

Opinion 17-11 A full-time judge may perform with a non-profit orchestra and other musical groups that are not business entities and accept reasonable compensation for his/her performances, subject to certain limitations. A full-time judge may publish his/her own musical compositions and receive royalties and performance rights fees for them.

Opinion 16-06 May a full-time judge who wrote a children's book: participate in book signings; spread the news that the book has been published; give away complimentary copies of the book; tell people, on request, where the book may be purchased; permit the publisher to mention the judge's judicial status; appear in judicial robes on the book's back cover; and/or read the book at an elementary school? Do any special restrictions apply because the work is a children's book rather than a law-related book?

Opinion 15-182 May a judge who wrote and published a law-related book go on a book tour, where the judge will conduct book signings and speak at bookstores, law schools, and bar associations in New York and elsewhere, and permit copies of the book to be available for purchase at such events? May the judge permit a commercial television producer to make a television series based on the judge's book for a commercial television station? If so, may the judge serve as a host for the television series or be interviewed for the series?

Opinion 16-37 May a full-time judge enter into an option/purchase agreement with a film producer, for a screenplay the judge wrote?

Opinion 15-162 May a law clerk who serves as a SCAR Hearing Officer (1) write and publish a children's book with a commercial publisher public and accept royalties and/or (2) personally market and sell the book?

Opinion 15-141 May a full-time judge co-author a treatise on a specialized area of law and accept royalties from the sales of the book?

Opinion 14-37 Is it ethically permissible for a judge to write articles about legal procedure for quarterly publication in a local newspaper with limited circulation?

Opinion 15-17 May a judge play in a band, which usually performs without pay, at charitable events, block parties and parties for friends?

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Extra-Judicial Activities - Judge as Officer, Director, or Non-Legal Advisor of a Non-Profit

Opinion 20-77 A full-time judge may serve on a not-for-profit advisory board that will make recommendations about funding local entities in serious economic jeopardy, provided his/her involvement is limited to reviewing and making recommendations on applications from not-for-profit entities that are not likely to appear before him/her.

Opinion 20-74 A judge may serve on board of directors for a not-for-profit private school.

Opinion 20-71 A judge may serve on the board of directors of a regional chapter of the Polish American Congress.

Opinion 20-47 May a judge serve on the board of a not-for-profit arts foundation that reviews grant applications and awards grants to promote performing arts?

Opinion 20-46 A judge may not serve on the board of a not-for-profit entity whose sole purpose is to raise funds for a foreign educational institution.

Opinion 20-45 A full-time judge may serve on the board of a not-for-profit entity that runs community-based health care facilities, provided it and its affiliated hospital are not likely to be engaged regularly in adversary proceedings in any court.

Opinion 20-23 A judge who is on a not-for-profit organization’s board of directors may be listed on the organization’s fund-raising invitation along with all other directors, in the same manner in which his/her name is listed on the organization’s website.

Opinion 20-14 May a full-time judge serve on the board of a not-for-profit entity in another state, where the entity’s mission is to promote “positive mental health outcomes in our oftentimes overwhelming digital landscape,” through educational school-based initiatives, public awareness campaigns and training for mental health professionals and educators?

Opinion 19-151 A part-time judge may serve ... (3) as a volunteer enterprise risk management chair of the local Boy Scout district, where the position involves ordinary health and safety risks in normal scouting activities...

Opinion 19-86 May a full-time judge serve as the chair of a strategic planning committee for a private not-for-profit school his/her children attend?

Opinion 19-122 A full-time judge may not serve as a board member or non-legal advisor of a not-for-profit organization that receives court appointments and provides guardianship services and attorney representation.

Opinion 19-131 May a full-time judge serve on the board of a not-for-profit entity "which provides art services to the disabled by providing occupational therapy activities such as classes and workshops" in various arts?

Opinion 19-136 A full-time judge may serve on the board of a not-for profit performing arts center, even if a government official appoints him/her.

Opinion 19-141 May a full-time judge serve as president of a bar foundation that “focuses on the management and distribution of grants for programs devoted to providing [local] legal services”?

Opinion 19-105 May a full-time judge serve on the board of a not-for-profit organization that “advocates for effective policies and drives evidence-based solutions for the health, education and success of children”?

Opinion 19-77 A part-time judge who serves on a historical society’s board of directors may participate in an audit review process of the organization’s records.

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 19-36 A full-time judge may not serve on the board of directors of a not-for-profit credit union that regularly appears in adversary proceedings.

Opinion 19-30 Once a not-for-profit land trust becomes involved in a controversial contested agency proceeding affecting local conserved lands, a judge may not serve as its officer or director, but may still be a regular member provided he/she does not comment on the agency proceedings or otherwise publicly associate him/herself with the land trust’s positions on matters of public controversy.

Opinion 18-178 May a judge serve on the board of a local mental health transitional housing not-for-profit entity that provides services to individuals, who participate voluntarily, some of whom may have had or will have contact with the criminal justice system?

Opinion 18-166 May a full-time judge serve on the board of directors of the not-for-profit Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (ACLD), an organization that does not accept referrals from the courts or regularly engage in litigation in any court?

Opinion 17-151 A judge may participate in a steering committee that plans an annual educational conference concerning adult abuse, where the conference is unlikely to be perceived as a law enforcement program and the steering committee’s membership includes both defense and prosecutorial perspectives.

Opinion 18-40 A full-time judge (1) may serve on the board of a county’s assigned counsel program, where the program does not engage in litigation but instead contracts with private attorneys to undertake the representations; (2) may appoint qualified attorneys as assigned counsel in legally appropriate circumstances, even when those attorneys are his/her fellow directors; (3) may not serve on the board of a not-for-profit landlord that brings eviction proceedings in his/her court.

Opinion 18-54 Where a not-for-profit entity provides detailed biographies of both directors on a website, the listing of the judge's name and the heading of the judge's biography may include the judge's judicial title if the listing and heading of the other director's biography includes his/her comparable title.

Opinion 18-44(C) A part-time judge may volunteer with a not-for-profit sports booster club by serving as an officer or director and/or by assisting the organization in planning fund-raising but (1) must not personally solicit funds, (2) must not permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising, and (3) must not permit his/her name to appear as the author or signatory on any fund-raising letter or as spokesperson in other solicitations.

Opinion 18-71 May a support magistrate continue to serve as an appointed trustee on his/her local board of education?

Opinion 18-39 A full-time judge may serve on the board of trustees of a not-for-profit firefighters museum, and his/her judicial title may appear on the entity’s letterhead if similar titles appear with other board members. He/she may not use the prestige of judicial office to raise funds or solicit members.

Opinion 18-100 A judge who appoints CASA to provide information on cases pending before the court may not serve as a member of CASA’s advisory board.

Opinion 18-90 (1) A judge may be on the board of a non-profit ambulance corporation seeking to create an ambulance district, but must resign if one is created. (2) As a board member, the judge: (a) must not partake in the corporation’s program about a proposed ambulance district; (b) may attend the event as an observer; and (c) may be publicly identified as a board member during the event, with other board members, and may be identified as a judge if similar titles identify other members.

Opinion 16-179 A judge may not serve as director of an entity if that role requires him/her to personally engage in fund-raising and/or recruitment activities.

Opinion 16-161 May a full-time judge serve on the admissions committee of a country club?

Opinion 15-190 May a judge serve on the board of directors for a not-for-profit agency with a broad educational mission that includes certain traffic safety education programs to which the judge may make referrals?

Opinion 16-148 May a full-time judge serve as a director of a local not-for-profit Urban League, which seeks “[t]o provide opportunities for members of all communities in our city to have access to education, employment and a living environment that fosters mutual respect”?

Opinion 15-171 May a full-time judge serve as an officer for a not-for-profit fraternal organization, serve as a non-legal advisor to the organization on matters of parliamentary procedure, and chair the organization's scholarship committee? May a judge sell raffle tickets benefiting the organization to family members? To friends?

Opinion 17-51 May a full-time judge serve on the board of the not-for-profit religious community center that runs the school the judge's children attend?

Opinion 16-98 May a full-time judge serve on (1) the Executive Committee of a private not-for-profit elementary school's board of trustees and/or (2) a search committee to hire a new head of the school?

Opinion 15-219 Where a judge appears on a not-for-profit organization's regular letterhead as a board member, may the judge permit the organization to include his/her name along with other board members on the organization's fund-raising invitations? Must the listing be absolutely identical or literally reproduce the regular letterhead?

Opinion 16-51 May a full-time judge serve on the board of a not-for-profit community economic development corporation?

Opinion 15-15 May a full-time judge serve on the board of directors of a not-for-profit local development corporation?

Opinion 16-40 May a judge who is a member and officer of a specialized bar association sign the association's certificate of incorporation?

Opinion 15-201 May a full-time judge who presides in a drug treatment court serve on the advisory board of a not-for-profit community action organization which educates and assists addicts and their families?

Opinion 15-229 May a judge serve as president or vice-president of a bar association?

Opinion 15-213 May a judge serve as a board member and secretary for a not-for-profit charity that provides services to underprivileged children and families, where the charity does not appear in the judge's court but employs social workers who appear in another court and who meet with that court's resource coordinators from time to time?

Opinion 15-149 May a full-time judge (1) serve on the board of a private, not-for-profit school that the judge's child attends; serve on the school's audit committee; serve on the school's academic affairs committee; and/or (2) serve on the board of directors of the judge's condominium?

Opinion 15-92(A) May a judge serve as an officer of his/her religious institution, preach sermons, make administrative announcements, and allow his/her sermons to be broadcast via live streaming on the internet?

Opinion 17-39 May a full-time judge serve on the board of a non-profit, non-partisan organization that advises governmental policymakers nationwide on criminal justice measures affecting public safety?

Opinion 17-134 (1) May a judge serve as a director, board member or president of a domestic not-for-profit corporation, which seeks tax exempt status, to help promote women into leadership positions "across all fields of endeavor"? May he/she educate others within the organization about how to raise funds?

Opinion 17-131 May a judge participate in an interview with a not-for-profit entity which provides mediation services in a court where the judge formerly presided?

Opinion 17-154 May a town justice serve as president of a local, private not-for-profit cemetery in the town where he/she presides?

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Extra-Judicial Activities - Governmental Committees and Commissions; Public Office or Trust; Notary Public

(22 NYCRR 100.4[C][2]; NY Const art VI, 20[b][1])

Impermissible for All (Full- or Part-Time)

Opinion 20-112 Where multiple high-profile, racially-charged incidents of police violence have resulted in ongoing or reasonably foreseeable litigation and intense local and national controversy, a judge may not participate in an initiative designed to (a) promote trust and open dialogue between activists and police concerning those incidents and/or (b) recommend changes to current police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices. [NOTE: This opinion addresses Executive Order 203.]

Opinion 19-38 A part-time judge may not serve as a fire investigator in the same county where he/she presides.

Opinion 19-41 A judge may not serve on an advisory committee that makes recommendations to the District Attorney regarding a convicted offender’s application to vacate a prior conviction, even if the judge will not be personally identified in the recommendation and the DA maintains full authority over his/her response to the application before the court.

Opinion 07-155/98-31 A judge may not serve on a charter review commission to review and proposed amendments to a city or county charter.

Opinion 15-134 May a full-time principal law clerk who is a part-time SCAR hearing officer apply for and become a notary public?

Opinion 15-123 May a part-time judge become a member of a governmental advisory committee on services for senior citizens?

Opinion 17-96 May a JHO serve on the advisory council for the housing part, which evaluates applicants and makes recommendations to the Chief Administrative Judge's regarding housing court judges' appointments?

Part-Time Judges and JHOs

Opinion 20-96 A part-time judge may serve on a county executive’s working group to review training at the county police academy, where the group’s membership is balanced and its goal is to help reduce and eliminate implicit bias. The judge must, however, be mindful of the need to maintain public confidence in his/her impartiality and must take particular care not to comment on any pending or impending case in the United States or its territories.

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 20-11 May a town justice accept an appointment by the town board to serve on the board of a not-for-profit local development corporation, funded by tax revenue from the local power facility?

Opinion 19-151 A part-time judge may serve (1) in an appointive position on the county’s emergency medical services advisory board, (2) as assistant chief of the local not-for-profit volunteer fire department elected solely by the organization’s members, where the position does not involve peace officer status or any investigative responsibilities...

Opinion 19-103 May a Judicial Hearing Officer serve as a member of a Town Board of Ethics, which has the power and duty to dispose of sworn complaints, conduct investigations and hearings, recommend disciplinary action, and assess penalties?

Opinion 19-134 May a part-time judge accept an appointment to serve on the county's solid waste board?

Opinion 19-147 A part-time judge may serve on the local tourism board, whose function is to take “all reasonable steps” to promote the city, provided the judge does not solicit funds or use the prestige of the office for that purpose.

Opinion 19-68 A part-time judge may serve on a town's ad hoc committee to establish a process to determine which privately owned real properties may be sold to another governmental entity, provided the issues do not become matters of substantial public controversy.

Opinion 18-183 A town justice may serve on a committee that examines and reviews laws in relation to the merger of another municipality into his/her town.

Full-Time Judges and Quasi-Judicial Officials

Opinion 19-146 (1) A full-time judge may not serve as an advisor to the U.S. President on disability programs and services nor on an advisory committee to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2) The judge may meet with federal executive branch officials on his/her own behalf to discuss his/her experiences as a disabled individual, subject to certain limitations.

Opinion 18-168 May a full time judge serve on an executive branch official’s committee concerning a new detention facility?

Opinion 18-60 A full-time judge may serve on a governmental task force to help address impacts of closing a prison facility, where its members represent a broad spectrum of interests and the task force will focus on planning for an orderly transition rather than fielding complaints.

Opinion 18-144 A full-time judge may participate in a task force primarily concerned with issues of fact and policy connected to public health and safety if the task force is sponsored by a not-for-profit organization, and is not itself a governmental committee or commission or other governmental position.

Opinion 16-157 May a full-time judge serve on the board of a regional emergency medical services council?

Opinion 17-91 May a full-time city court judge accept appointment by the county health commissioner to serve an unpaid hearing officer under the Public Health Law to adjudicate a certain category of health-related violations?

Opinion 15-203 May a full-time judge who presides in a treatment court serve on a legislator's advisory committee on drug abuse?

Opinion 15-200 May a full-time judge serve in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps?

Opinion 16-105 May a judge subject to article VI, section 20 of the state constitution sign a separate oath of office for a county legislature's law-related advisory board?

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Extra-Judicial Activities - Fund-Raising; In-Kind Solicitations; Membership Solicitation; Speaker or Guest of Honor at Fund-Raiser

Opinion 20-91 May a judge accept an unadvertised award at a not-for-profit organization’s fund-raising dinner and briefly express his/her thanks?

Opinion 20-57 May a judge perform the role of a judge in a theatrical performance to raise funds for his/her house of worship?

Opinion 20-23 A judge who is on a not-for-profit organization’s board of directors may be listed on the organization’s fund-raising invitation along with all other directors, in the same manner in which his/her name is listed on the organization’s website.

Opinion 20-62 May a judge serve as Stewardship Co-Chair for his/her house of worship?

Opinion 19-108 May a judge solicit funds from other judges in the Judicial District, over whom he/she has no supervisory or appellate authority, for a “Wellness Fund” to be used by the local Wellness Committee to fund social events for judges and employees to promote workplace collegiality and a positive work environment?

Opinion 19-18 A judge may serve as "internal coordinator" of a multitask capital improvement committee for his/her house of worship, and may assist in planning fund-raising, if the judge does not personally solicit funds, does not permit use of his/her name or the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising, and does not appear as the author, signatory or spokesperson in fund-raising materials. The judge may solicit other congregation members to serve the committee, may schedule and notify committee members of meeting details, and may ask the committee members to solicit donations. If the judge donates to the project, his/her name and donation amount may be published with other donors, without mention of the judge's committee role.

Opinion 18-151 A town justice may not chair the membership committee of the town’s volunteer fire department.

Opinion 18-91 May a judge accept a “[man/woman] of the year” award from a fraternal organization at the entity’s annual dinner? How can the judge determine whether or not it is a fund-raiser?

Opinion 18-53 A trial judge may coordinate a raffle (assuming its lawfulness) at a magistrates’ association training program to raise money from other co-equal judges over whom he/she has no supervisory authority, to purchase commemorative plaques for display at local court facilities.

Opinion 18-61 (1) A judge who attended a private middle school and high school with the assistance of a not-for-profit program that prepares disadvantaged students to attend such schools may be involved in the program’s recruitment efforts just as he/she would for his/her former high school, college, or law school, and therefore may participate in a video recorded interview in which the judge will discuss his/her memories of the program and its impact on his/her career and provide a message to this year’s graduates. (2) The judge may wear judicial robes during the interview but should comply with applicable administrative requirements under Section 29.1 of the Rules of the Chief Judge before permitting any photography or video in the courtroom or chambers. (3) The judge may permit the video to be played at the not-for-profit program’s fund-raiser, provided there is no reference to the judge or the video in advertising the event or in soliciting attendance or contributions. The judge must advise the entity to use the video only for general promotion of the program and/or recruitment of students, but not fund-raising.

Opinion 18-44(B) A judge may not sell items at a not-for-profit organization’s concession stand at a sporting event but may participate in food preparation and other behind-the-scenes activities related to operating the concession stand.

Opinion 18-44(C) A part-time judge may volunteer with a not-for-profit sports booster club by serving as an officer or director and/or by assisting the organization in planning fund-raising but (1) must not personally solicit funds, (2) must not permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising, and (3) must not permit his/her name to appear as the author or signatory on any fund-raising letter or as spokesperson in other solicitations.

Opinion 18-98 On learning that his/her name and photograph were used to promote a church fund-raiser, a judge objected orally and in writing; the event was subsequently canceled. Need the judge take any further action?

Opinion 18-146 Need a judge take further steps besides objecting orally and in writing, withdrawing from participation as honoree, and requesting notification of invitees, after discovering a parade committee used his/her name, without his/her knowledge or consent, to solicit journal ads to raise funds for an upcoming holiday parade and celebration?

Opinion 18-53 A trial judge may coordinate a raffle (assuming its lawfulness) at a magistrates’ association training program to raise money from other co-equal judges over whom he/she has no supervisory authority, to purchase commemorative plaques for display at local court facilities.

Opinion 16-152 A judge may not appear in a videotaped interview on behalf of a re-entry agency, which will be shown at the agency's fund-raising event.

Opinion 17-124 May a judge be the announced speaker for the annual tea party of a certain chapter of a not-for-profit charitable entity, where the tea party includes an advertised raffle/auction in an adjacent room?

Opinion 15-109 May a part-time judge who is also employed full-time with a university engage in fund-raising from alumni, parents and friends of the university if such individuals reside outside New York State? 

Opinion 16-04 May a judge participate in a bar association's membership drive and recruit new attorney members with a complimentary one year membership?

Opinion 16-153 (1) May a trial judge whose minor child is participating in a charitable fund-raiser personally participate in the child's fund-raising efforts by asking family, close friends, neighbors, and judicial colleagues to make pledges on the child's behalf? (2) If not, may the judge assist the child in making such solicitations by telephone or in person, by placing telephone calls or escorting the child to a neighbor's home? (3) If permitted to accompany the child, may the judge supplement or clarify the child's explanation, as needed, regarding the nature of the fund-raiser?

Opinion 16-17 (1) May a judge acting as a leader within a religious organization (a) promote a weekend retreat and/or (b) solicit items for clothing drives, food drives and the like? (2) May a judge be a featured speaker at a religious institution's anniversary banquet?

Opinion 17-55 A judge may not directly or indirectly solicit property owners, car rental agencies, or food merchants on behalf of the Red Cross. However, the judge may use his/her skills as a logistics expert to plan and to manage supplies or donations as they are received and may also purchase items for disaster relief with a donated debit card, provided the judge does not solicit such a card. These principles apply without geographic limitation.

Opinion 15-171 May a full-time judge serve as an officer for a not-for-profit fraternal organization, serve as a non-legal advisor to the organization on matters of parliamentary procedure, and chair the organization's scholarship committee? May a judge sell raffle tickets benefiting the organization to family members? To friends?

Opinion 16-69 May a judge serve as master of ceremonies for a not-for-profit community organization's event honoring local religious leaders and a local executive branch official, where "all the proceeds will benefit the youth program"?

Opinion 16-01 May a judge who is a member of a law school reunion committee be a signatory or listed as a committee member on a letter that encourages and solicits alumni donations? Or on a letter inviting alumni to attend an upcoming law school reunion event which is not a fund-raiser?

Opinion 16-136 May a sitting judge who will be retiring at the end of the year agree to be the guest of honor at a not-for-profit educational institution's fund-raising dinner to be held next year?

Opinion 15-219 Where a judge appears on a not-for-profit organization's regular letterhead as a board member, may the judge permit the organization to include his/her name along with other board members on the organization's fund-raising invitations? Must the listing be absolutely identical or literally reproduce the regular letterhead?

Opinion 15-89 What are a judge's obligations on learning that his/her name was listed on the invitation to a not-for-profit organization's fund-raiser, where the judge's name was listed with all other directors on the back of the invitation, but the organization's regular letterhead does not include the names of its directors?

Opinion 15-60 Once a judge has taken appropriate and effective remedial steps to mitigate his/her alma mater's use of the judge's name on invitations to the school's fund-raiser, may the judge attend the event as an ordinary attendee?

Opinion 17-59 A judge who declined his/her college alma mater's invitation to be an honorary co-chair of a fund-raising event and, after receiving the printed invitation listing the judge as a co-chair, objected in writing and requested a retraction, is not obligated to take any further steps. The judge may attend the event, where doing so will create no appearance of impropriety.

Opinion 15-154 May a judge serve as a speaker at a not-for-profit organization's annual dinner, where the judge knows that the dinner, although itself modestly priced, involves substantial, ongoing and prominent fund-raising as the attendees are strongly urged to upgrade to silver, gold, life, or corporate memberships, and are publicly recognized for making full or partial payment during the dinner?

Opinion 15-91 May a judge serve as a clothing model at a not-for-profit fund-raising luncheon/fashion show which includes raffles and a silent auction?

Opinion 15-03 May a judge chair a committee which informs members of a religious congregation of their membership fees?

Opinion 17-78 Digest: Under the circumstances, a judge who objected orally and in writing to the appearance of his/her name in a letter soliciting funds for a charity need not take any further action.

Opinion 18-05 Digest: A judge must not chair a Red Cross blood drive or solicit blood donors.

Opinion 17-106 May a quasi-judicial official, whose young child has significant developmental and physical limitations, seek financial help and services offered by not-for-profit organizations for the benefit of such children and their families?

Opinion 17-174 Digest: A judge may sing the national anthem at a not-for-profit organization's fund-raiser, provided the judge's participation is unannounced and ancillary to the event.

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Extra-Judicial Activities - Attending Fund-Raisers; Donating to Non-Profits

Opinion 19-24 May a part-time attorney judge donate office space, in a building he/she owns, to a not-for-profit charitable entity providing support to immigrants regardless of their immigration status, where the space is on a different floor from the judge’s law firm and the entity does not appear in court nor provide legal services to anyone?

Opinion 19-18 A judge may serve as "internal coordinator" of a multitask capital improvement committee for his/her house of worship, and may assist in planning fund-raising, if the judge does not personally solicit funds, does not permit use of his/her name or the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising, and does not appear as the author, signatory or spokesperson in fund-raising materials. The judge may solicit other congregation members to serve the committee, may schedule and notify committee members of meeting details, and may ask the committee members to solicit donations. If the judge donates to the project, his/her name and donation amount may be published with other donors, without mention of the judge's committee role.

Opinion 18-14 A judge in his/her window period may use his/her own personal funds to make sponsor-level charitable donations, and permit the entity to acknowledge the donation by prominently displaying the judge’s name and judicial title, without reference to the “fair value” rule, provided these advertisements contain no reference to his/her campaign.

Opinion 16-158 May a judge attend a “Casino Night” fund-raiser at his/her child’s private pre-school and participate as a player?

Opinion 17-68 May a judge attend his/her court attorney's fund-raisers to offset costs associated with the court attorney's international adoption, and make contributions from his/her personal funds?

Opinion 15-223 (1) May a judge who is co-trustee of a relative's charitable trust authorize the trust to make charitable donations to not-for-profit entities that regularly appear before the judge, such as legal services providers and agencies to which the judge may make referrals? Is disclosure or disqualification required when a recipient of the trust's charitable donations appears before the judge? (2) May a judge as co-trustee of a charitable trust participate in authorizing donations to not-for-profit organizations that seek to influence social policy?

Opinion 16-35 May a judge attend, as a guest, a fund-raising event held by a not-for-profit law enforcement organization? May the judge make donations to the entity?

Opinion 15-222 May a judge make a charitable donation to help establish a new mentoring program for at-risk youth, where the program is sponsored by certain county public defenders?

Opinion 15-26/15-44 May a judge 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?

Opinion 17-59 A judge who declined his/her college alma mater's invitation to be an honorary co-chair of a fund-raising event and, after receiving the printed invitation listing the judge as a co-chair, objected in writing and requested a retraction, is not obligated to take any further steps. The judge may attend the event, where doing so will create no appearance of impropriety.

Opinion 18-05 Digest: (1) A judge must not chair a Red Cross blood drive or solicit blood donors. (2) A judge and his/her co-judge may make a charitable contribution to their house of worship by purchasing an advertisement in the weekly bulletin identifying themselves by name and title and signing it "your local magistrates."

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Extra-Judicial Activities - Bar Associations and Judicial Associations

Opinion 19-121 A court attorney-referee may not volunteer with a local bar association group by providing pro bono legal services in another jurisdiction.

Opinion 19-141 May a full-time judge serve as president of a bar foundation that “focuses on the management and distribution of grants for programs devoted to providing [local] legal services”?

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 18-168 May a full time judge engage in certain bar association activities, serve on an executive branch official’s committee concerning a new detention facility, and teach at a private law school?

Opinion 16-178 A judicial association may not submit an amicus brief to the Court of Appeals in a pending appeal to express its members' concern, as trial judges, about the practical effects of a recent Appellate Division decision that trial judges lack statutory authority to take a particular action in connection with sentencing. The judicial association and/or individual judges may instead propose changes to applicable statutes which affect sentencing procedures in their courts. However, if it is not possible to advocate for the desired statutory change without publicly commenting on a specific, identifiable case, they must wait until the case is completely resolved.

Opinion 15-198 May a judge attend a magistrates' association meeting held at a local correctional facility?

Opinion 16-04 May a judge participate in a bar association's membership drive and recruit new attorney members with a complimentary one year membership?

Opinion 16-93 May a judge place flyers for a not-for-profit bar association's upcoming educational programs on a table in the back of his/her courtroom?

Opinion 16-40 May a judge who is a member and officer of a specialized bar association sign the association's certificate of incorporation?

Opinion 16-145 May a county Magistrates Association, at the request of a bar association and the county executive, comment on the bar association's proposed assigned counsel plan before it is implemented by the county?

Opinion 16-138 May a judge who wishes to appoint a new law clerk circulate the job notice through a local bar association, specialized bar association committees, and the attorneys who serve on those committees? May the judge ask such attorneys to circulate the job notice within their law firms? Is disclosure or disqualification required?

Opinion 15-229 May a judge serve as president or vice-president of a bar association?

Opinion 15-187 May a judges' association hold its annual conference at a hotel resort and casino owned by a sovereign Native American nation?

Opinion 15-129 May a part-time judge serve on a bar association's attorney grievance committee?

Opinion 15-100 May a judicial association publicly respond to a newspaper article which sets forth a local attorney's criticisms of another judge? What are the advantages and disadvantages, from a judicial ethics perspective, of various possible types of responses to public criticism?

Opinion 15-149 May a full-time judge serve on a bar association committee?

Opinion 15-99 May a magistrates association, of which the judge is a member, tour a state police headquarters and watch the "training/process of a DWI arrest"?

Opinion 17-179 Digest: Subject to certain conditions and limitations, a full-time judge who is the president of an ethnic bar association may participate as the bar association president in a meeting with a DA-elect's transition team on issues involving the law, the legal system and the administration of justice.

 

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Extra-Judicial Activities - Religious Institutions

Opinion 19-18 A judge may serve as "internal coordinator" of a multitask capital improvement committee for his/her house of worship, and may assist in planning fund-raising, if the judge does not personally solicit funds, does not permit use of his/her name or the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising, and does not appear as the author, signatory or spokesperson in fund-raising materials. The judge may solicit other congregation members to serve the committee, may schedule and notify committee members of meeting details, and may ask the committee members to solicit donations. If the judge donates to the project, his/her name and donation amount may be published with other donors, without mention of the judge's committee role.

Opinion 17-12 May a full-time judge speak to not-for-profit organizations affiliated with a certain religion, including domestic and foreign parochial schools and places of worship, about his/her background and experience in becoming a judge, so as to encourage others to pursue a legal career? If so, may the judge accept standard speaking fees and reasonable travel expenses?

Opinion 17-69 A full-time judge (1) may attend informational assemblies and leadership meetings organized by a not-for-profit umbrella entity which encompasses the judge's religious institution, even if pending litigation is on the agenda, provided the judge does not comment on the litigation; and (2) may invite his/her fellow congregants to attend such assemblies and leadership meetings.

Opinion 17-70 A court attorney-referee who is an ordained rabbi may teach, preach, and write on Israel-related issues concerning the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, but not on non-legal matters of substantial public and political controversy, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Opinion 17-20 May a judge serve on the nominating committee for his/her house of worship?

Opinion 16-22 (1) May a judge read passages from scripture at a religious service? (2) 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 16-15 May a full-time judge accept an honorarium for giving the "lesson for the day" at a worship service?

Opinion 16-86 May a judge be ordained as a minister via an online course in order to conduct a wedding in another state?

Opinion 16-17 (1) May a judge acting as a leader within a religious organization (a) promote a weekend retreat and/or (b) solicit items for clothing drives, food drives and the like? (2) May a judge be a featured speaker at a religious institution's anniversary banquet?

Opinion 15-92(A) May a judge serve as an officer of his/her religious institution, preach sermons, make administrative announcements, and allow his/her sermons to be broadcast via live streaming on the internet?

Opinion 15-79 May a judge participate in a non-fund-raising National Day of Prayer event, lead a prayer, and be identified as a judge?

Opinion 15-03 May a judge chair a committee which informs members of a religious congregation of their membership fees?

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Extra-Judicial Activities - Law Schools

Opinion 19-143 A full-time judge may teach law-related classes for compensation at a for-profit college or university, provided such teaching does not conflict with the proper performance of judicial duties.

Opinion 16-01 May a judge who is a member of a law school reunion committee be a signatory or listed as a committee member on a letter that encourages and solicits alumni donations? Or on a letter inviting alumni to attend an upcoming law school reunion event which is not a fund-raiser?

Opinion 16-76 May a judge serve on the advisory board to an academic/clinical unit within a private law school, even though he/she refers litigants to the unit's treatment programs? If so, what limitations apply? 

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Extra-Judicial Activities - Fire-Fighting, Fire Departments, Fire Districts

Opinion 19-151 A part-time judge may serve ... (2) as assistant chief of the local not-for-profit volunteer fire department elected solely by the organization’s members, where the position does not involve peace officer status or any investigative responsibilities....

Opinion 18-152 A part-time town justice may simultaneously serve as the appointed treasurer of the town’s taxpayer-supported fire district, where the judge has no involvement in the budgeting process but instead pays invoices after the fire commissioners’ approval.

Opinion 18-187 May a town justice serve as the appointed Secretary-Treasurer for the Fire District in the same town in which he/she serves?

Opinion 18-39 A full-time judge may serve on the board of trustees of a not-for-profit firefighters museum, and his/her judicial title may appear on the entity’s letterhead if similar titles appear with other board members. He/she may not use the prestige of judicial office to raise funds or solicit members.

Opinion 19-38 A part-time judge may not serve as a fire investigator in the same county where he/she presides.

Opinion 18-76 A part-time judge (1) may not serve as a county fire investigator for the same county where he/she presides ....

Opinion 18-151 A town justice may not chair the membership committee of the town’s volunteer fire department.

 

Solemnizing Marriages

Opinion 16-125 May a judge perform a marriage ceremony in another state?

Opinion 16-86 May a judge be ordained as a minister via an online course in order to conduct a wedding in another state?

Opinion 16-10 May a part-time judge place classified ads indicating his/her availability to officiate marriages?

Opinion 16-56 May a judge decline to solemnize all marriages? If so, may court staff refer the couple to another wedding officiant?

Opinion 15-97 Is it ethically permissible for a judge to accept reimbursement for the cost of lodging for two nights in connection with performing an out-of-town wedding for a good friend?

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Extra-Judicial Activities - Miscellaneous

Opinion 20-89 A judge may not mail congratulatory letters to a graduating high school class.

Opinion 20-75 Where a full-time judge has been sued by a former ward, may the judge provide his/her current attorneys with financial information he/she obtained during the guardianship, to assist them in collecting an award of attorneys’ fees from the former ward?

Opinion 20-02 May a full-time judge serve as a compensated referee for certain private not-for-profit high school and grammar school sports leagues?

Opinion 19-149 A court attorney-referee may participate in a census education drive organized by his/her fraternity/sorority provided he/she does so in a strictly neutral, non-partisan and informational manner.

Opinion 19-158 May a town justice attend public town board meetings as an observer?

Opinion 20-49 A full-time judge may volunteer as a disc jockey for a not-for-profit college radio station.

Opinion 20-13 A part-time judge may organize a non-fund-raising sports race and promote it to members of the local sporting community, even though participants will pay a modest fee to cover event costs. The judge may personally apply for routine permits and approvals and be listed as race director, provided he/she does not reference his/her judicial status in any way in making such application and requests.

Opinion 19-151 A part-time judge may serve ... as a scoutmaster for a local Boy Scout troop.

Opinion 19-115 A judge may participate in an academic study on judicial diversity in state courts but must abide by generally applicable limitations on speech and conduct, including the public comment rule, and must neither disclose any non-public information acquired in a judicial capacity nor express a predisposition to decide matters in a certain way.

Opinion 19-70 A judge may organize a financial educational seminar for fellow judges, featuring a speaker from a not-for-profit entity, provided the judge carefully avoids lending the prestige of judicial office to advance private interests.

Opinion 18-147 On these facts, a judge may not participate in an athletic/sporting event organized and promoted solely by the local District Attorney’s office.

Opinion 17-182 A full-time judge (1) may retain a pharmacy license and (2) may volunteer as a hospital pharmacist in a cancer research project, subject to the usual limitations on judicial speech and conduct.

Opinion 18-76 A part-time judge (1) may not serve as a county fire investigator for the same county where he/she presides but (2) may serve as a volunteer instructor at a regional police academy sponsored by a police organization in a neighboring county, where the students are police recruits who will not commence work until after they complete the training.

Opinion 18-126 (1) A full-time judge may not consent to an interview that will be posted exclusively on a private law firm’s website. On learning his/her interview has nonetheless been posted on a law firm’s website, the judge must instruct the firm to remove the post. (2) A judge may not subscribe to a law firm’s blog, even using a personal email address.

Opinion 18-15 A judge may not serve on a local committee to address bail reform whose membership will consist exclusively of defense representatives and community members since the organizers have declined to invite any prosecutorial, police, or law enforcement agency representatives.

Opinion 16-112 Digest: A judge may join the Legal and Business Professionals of ____ County, a private social organization consisting of judges, lawyers, businesspeople, and law enforcement professionals interested in making their community a better place to work and live, even though its former name and mission statement inaccurately suggested a law enforcement orientation.

Opinion 17-70 (1) A court attorney-referee who is an ordained rabbi may teach, preach, and write on Israel-related issues concerning the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, but not on non-legal matters of substantial public and political controversy, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (2) A court attorney-referee may join and participate in non-political events sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Hiddush, which appear to have substantial non-political purposes, but may neither join nor attend events sponsored by J Street.

Opinion 17-55 A judge may not directly or indirectly solicit property owners, car rental agencies, or food merchants on behalf of the Red Cross. However, the judge may use his/her skills as a logistics expert to plan and to manage supplies or donations as they are received and may also purchase items for disaster relief with a donated debit card, provided the judge does not solicit such a card. These principles apply without geographic limitation.

Opinion 16-177 May a part-time judge volunteer with (1) a departmental grievance committee's diversion program under 22 NYCRR 1240.11 and/or (2) a local bar association's lawyer assistance committee under Judiciary Law § 499?

Opinion 17-101 May a judge meet privately with attorneys who represent criminal defendants concerning a "defense perspective" on the court's handling of "discovery, diversion and disposition of cases," where the meeting will expressly exclude any prosecutors?

Opinion 17-15 May a Family Court judge send a sympathy card to the family of a decedent who was formerly the subject of juvenile delinquency proceedings before the judge?

Opinion 17-30 May part-time judges organize a free community "Law Day" event to be held at a local library or historical society where local attorneys would offer free 10-minute private consultations to the public?

Opinion 17-88 May a judge serve on a committee established by a local prosecutor to address certain legal issues concerning a prosecutor's discovery obligations, where the committee will include the criminal defense bar, representatives of the local Legal Aid Society, the director of the local 18B panel, and senior prosecutors?

Opinion 17-11 It is a judge's obligation to determine whether a lay organization for men of a particular ethnicity and religion engages in invidious discrimination.

Opinion 16-179 A judge may be a member of an all-female volunteer EMT service which responds to calls from women in a particular faith community who need emergency care, where the service was established to expand opportunities for women in the community and to preserve significant religious or cultural values of legitimate common interest to community members. However, a judge may not serve as director of the entity if that role requires him/her to personally engage in fund-raising and/or recruitment activities.

Opinion 16-157 A full-time judge (1) may informally refer at-risk youth to religious or secular educational programs, assuming he/she does not frequently preside in matters involving at-risk youth and such programs do not appear before the judge or accept court referrals; (2) may serve as a paramedic with a local volunteer ambulance corps; (3) may not serve on the board of a regional emergency medical services council; and (4) may participate in a documentary film concerning his/her volunteer activities if it is produced by a not-for-profit entity, but may not participate in a commercially produced documentary.

Opinion 17-25 May a full-time judge serve on the tribunal of a not-for-profit entity as the representative of one of its constituent members, where the tribunal has "jurisdiction to hear and determine controversies and disputes" among various constituent members?

Opinion 17-24 Digest: A full-time judge who presides in a high-volume part may hold annual or semi-annual meetings with the attorneys who appear before him/her to discuss administrative issues. These meetings may not involve catered meals paid for by attorneys, but the judge may host "brown bag luncheons" to which the participants may bring their own meals.

Opinion 15-151 May a village justice continue as a client of a salesperson whose spouse is the village prosecutor?

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 15-227 May a judge whose spouse is actively involved in the not-for-profit American Israel Public Affairs Committee attend a non-political dinner at which the judge's spouse and other financial supporters will be recognized?

Opinion 15-118 May a full-time judge accept an invitation to become a member of a not-for-profit organization which has as its primary purpose the promotion of the culture of a particular religion as well as certain charitable works?

Opinion 15-104 May a judge who volunteers for a not-for-profit educational organization permit the entity to use his/her name and honorific when listing the judge as a volunteer in the entity's internal documents?

Opinion 15-103 May a judge write a review of the professional services provided by his/her divorce lawyer, on an online ratings service that displays individual reviews directly to the public?

Opinion 15-102 May a judge compete in the World Series of Poker?

Opinion 15-100 May a judicial association publicly respond to a newspaper article which sets forth a local attorney's criticisms of another judge? What are the advantages and disadvantages, from a judicial ethics perspective, of various possible types of responses to public criticism?

Opinion 15-07 May a town judge voluntarily undertake to clear snow from the driveway of an abandoned property near his/her home as a public service?

Opinion 15-26/15-44 May a judge attend (1) an annual fund-raising event for a not-for profit organization that provides services and support to victims of domestic abuse and child abuse and/or (2) 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?

Opinion 17-01 May a judge be a certified soccer referee member of a private, not-for-profit referee's association, and accept compensation for refereeing games? What restrictions apply for a full-time judge?

Opinion 17-77 Digest: A judge may be a housing resource for a third-degree relative on parole, but may not use the prestige of judicial office to seek exceptions to the parole board's procedures.

Opinion 17-108 Digest: A judge may not participate in a "Call to Service and Compassion Workshop" to honor child abuse victims and survivors hosted by a local child advocacy center.

Opinion 17-131 May a judge participate in an interview with a not-for-profit entity which provides mediation services in a court where the judge formerly presided?

Opinion 17-123 Digest: A judge who presides in veterans treatment court may write to legislators asking for names of potential peer mentors to work with veteran-defendants in the program, provided the judge avoids both actual coercion and its appearance when requesting participation. Alternatively, the judge may authorize his/her resource coordinator or mentor coordinator to write such a letter.

Opinion 17-106 May a quasi-judicial official, whose young child has significant developmental and physical limitations, seek financial help and services offered by not-for-profit organizations for the benefit of such children and their families?
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Attending Educational Programs; Attending Other Non-Profit, Non-Political, Non-Fund-Raising Events; Being an Advertised Speaker or Guest of Honor at Such Events

Opinion 19-124 ... (2) A town justice must attend the town's sexual harassment prevention training program if legally required to do so.

Opinion 19-127 (1) A part-time judge may attend out-of-state judicial education courses at the National Judicial College. (2) The judge may apply for and accept an educational grant or scholarship from: (a) the National Judicial College or (b) a County Traffic Safety Board, provided there is no financial or referral connection between the judge and the Board, and there is little likelihood that the Board's investigations and recommendations will become the subject matter of cases before the judge. (3) The judge may not request or accept funds for judicial education from a local Victim Impact Panel, where that organization's sole funding source is fees paid by defendants for attendance at court-ordered sessions.

Opinion 19-73 A judge may be the plenary speaker at a non-fund-raising event sponsored by a not-for-profit homelessness services network, where the judge will discuss religious/spiritual issues, mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, and historical/moral progress in community responses to homelessness and will not address funding or government support for the homeless.

Opinion 19-14 A full-time judge may participate in a non-partisan, non-law enforcement-oriented initiative to create an anti-bullying program in schools to prevent or reduce JD and PINS behaviors.

Opinion 19-09 A full-time judge may take a multi-week improvisational comedy class from a for-profit entity, but may not perform in the graduation show, which charges admission. Additionally, the judge may perform a first-person story about his/her childhood or cultural background only if the entity producing the event is a non-profit and the show is not a fund-raiser. The analysis does not change if the judge performs anonymously and/or uses a pseudonym.

Opinion 18-41 Judges and court clerks may not attend a training program sponsored by the county Ignition Interlock Monitor, where the program will address post-conviction sentencing compliance enforcement, the faculty expressly excludes defense perspectives, and the defense bar has not been invited to attend the program. Addendum: After this inquiry was decided, the organizers invited the Public Defender to participate on the faculty panel. In our view, the Public Defender’s participation here will help ensure balance and minimize the risk that the program will be seen as a one-sided, law enforcement program. Accordingly, judges and their court clerks may attend.

Opinion 18-91 May a judge accept a “[man/woman] of the year” award from a fraternal organization at the entity’s annual dinner? How can the judge determine whether or not it is a fund-raiser?

Opinion 18-110 A city court judge may attend the mayor’s free anti-violence event for youth as an audience member with no speaking role.

Opinion 18-55 A judge who hears Mental Hygiene Law cases in which hospitals regularly appear as petitioners may participate in a hospital’s “Nurse for a Day” program, in a unit that does not appear before the judge, but must (1) refrain from discussing court-related issues or pending cases and (2) instruct the hospital not to refer to the judge’s judicial status in any publicity concerning the event. Thereafter, for three months, the judge must disclose his/her involvement in all matters involving the hospital. In matters where all parties have, through counsel, provided written blanket “waivers” acknowledging the judge’s participation in the “Nurse for a Day” program, the disclosure requirement is deemed satisfied.

Opinion 17-04 A judge may not attend a three-day human trafficking seminar sponsored by federal prosecutorial and law enforcement agencies, where the program will focus primarily on strategies for effective prosecution.

Opinion 17-146 Digest: A judge may attend a free public conference on human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children, where the program will focus primarily on helping identify and assist at-risk youth.

Opinion 16-73 May a judge and his/her family attend a defensive driving program hosted by the police department exclusively for police personnel and their families and otherwise closed to the public? Does it make a difference if they would pay their own way?

Opinion 15-99 May a magistrates association, of which the judge is a member, tour a state police headquarters and watch the "training/process of a DWI arrest"?

Opinion 17-94 May a judge be a guest of honor at a not-for-profit arts entity's concert to celebrate local women leaders and trailblazers, and appear in a video of the event, where the concert and video will not involve any fund-raising?

Opinion 17-137 May a part-time judge accept an award as Citizen of the Year from a local not-for-profit entity at a non-fund-raising dinner, and permit the award to be advertised in advance?

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Political Activity

Sub-Topics: Judicial Campaigns; Unexpended Campaign Funds | Miscellaneous

Political Activity - Judicial Campaigns; Unexpended Campaign Funds

(See 22 NYCRR 100.5; 100.0[A]; 100.0[Q].)

Opinion 20-83 A Supreme Court candidate may write a letter asking voters to vote in a primary election for a judicial delegate who will support his/her nomination but must make clear that his/her endorsement of the delegate is for the purpose of furthering his/her own candidacy for Supreme Court. This information should be contained in the body of the letter; a notation at the very bottom of the page, in a much smaller font than the rest of the letter, is insufficient.

Opinion 19-94(B) A judicial candidate may not permit a political action committee to host a joint fund-raiser for him/her and another candidate.

Opinion 19-133 ... (3) A judge who is running for election to judicial office may respond to personal attacks or attacks on his/her record in his/her capacity as a judicial candidate, provided the response is truthful and not misleading. Thus the judge may, for example, (a) share copies of ethics opinions he/she believes authorize the criticized conduct, (b) disclose the length of his/her employment as an attorney and a part-time judge, (c) disclose facts and circumstances concerning his/her seeking a judicial ethics opinion, and/or (d) explain how his/her conduct has been influenced and guided by such opinions.

Opinion 19-119 Where a political action committee's endorsement is conditioned on the candidate's pledge, promise or commitment (a) not to seek or accept a specified political party's nomination and (b) to disregard the law by "unequivocally support[ing]" access to certain regulated medical procedures or devices "unimpeded by laws, restrictions, or regulations," a judicial candidate must decline the entity's endorsement. On these facts, the candidate also must not attend the entity's fund-raiser featuring its endorsed candidates.

Opinion 19-109 A judicial candidate may pay his/her proportionate share of the actual expenses for a “petition signing party,” at which modest and reasonable refreshments are served, for the purpose of assembling registered voters to sign petitions, provided he/she concludes the campaign will receive fair value for the expenditure. However, the candidate must only circulate or request signatures on petitions as permitted by prior opinions.

Opinion 19-112 Judicial candidates must take particular care to ascertain the truth of all claims they make about their election opponents and make every effort to avoid misleading the public with mere speculation or innuendo. Thus, a candidate may not (1) unjustly characterize an election opponent’s prior removal from the ballot as an inability to “follow the law” and/or a “flagrant disregard for the law” or (2) present hypothetical scenarios incorrectly suggesting unfavorable litigation outcomes that can only result from a judge’s failure to “follow the law” or other judicial misconduct.

Opinion 19-94(A) A judicial candidate may allow an individual to host a joint fund-raiser for him/her and two other judicial candidates, but the attendees must write separate checks to each candidate’s campaign committee.

Opinion 19-98 A judge who presides in a drug treatment court may not solicit campaign endorsements from treatment court graduates.

Opinion 19-53 A judicial candidate must not use a photograph of strangers that falsely implies the individuals depicted endorse the candidate.

Opinion 19-37 A judicial candidate’s campaign committee may use an electronic event invitation system that charges 2% of the ticket price per ticket sold to distribute fund-raising invitations and sell tickets.

Opinion 19-19 If a judicial candidate determines he/she is legally permitted to repay his/her personal loan after the election, it is ethically permissible for him/her to use his/her remaining unexpended campaign funds, raised before election day, to do so.

Opinion 18-167 A judge who is a judicial candidate within his/her window period may pay his/her proportionate share of the actual expenses for a free “meet and greet” with four candidates for non-judicial office, where two of these candidates are invited as guests and will not share in the expenses, provided he/she concludes the campaign will receive fair value for the expenditure.

Opinion 18-164 A judicial candidate who is part of a political party’s slate may attend a fund-raising event where the invitation says “come meet [this year’s] candidates, including our judicial slate,” without naming him/her.

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 18-95 A judicial candidate may not answer a political party’s questionnaire designed to elicit express and implied commitments that (a) are unrelated to the impartial performance of judicial duties and/or (b) would require him/her to engage in activities prohibited by the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.

Opinion 17-28 A candidate for judicial office may not respond to a questionnaire which, when seen as a whole, can only be seen as a series of implied pledges, promises, and commitments, touching on a wide variety of closely interrelated issues that may come before the judge if elected or re-elected.

Opinion 18-69 Subject to compliance with all applicable rules and statutes, a judicial candidate may permit a member of his/her campaign committee to manage a private GoFundMe account to raise contributions for the campaign, provided (1) the candidate is insulated from knowing who contributed and (2) such contributions are properly reported by the campaign treasurer.

Opinion 18-68 Subject to the fair value rule, a judicial candidate who has only de minimis remaining unexpended campaign funds may use such funds to attend legal education conferences to enhance his/her judicial competence.

Opinion 18-70 Subject to the fair value rule, a candidate for elective judicial office may use campaign funds to attend a charitable event during the post-election window period and purchase a full-page congratulatory journal advertisement in furtherance of his/her campaign. That the candidate is a trustee of the organization does not render this expenditure impermissible.

Opinion 18-63 Where a judge has completed all post-election requirements to wind down and terminate his/her campaign, he/she may subsequently return to the sender an unopened envelope addressed to the judge’s now defunct campaign committee. The judge may include a letter on campaign letterhead or personal letterhead and signed personally by the judge.

Opinion 18-35 (1) A judicial candidate may not permit another person to purchase a $2,000 ticket to a political event and donate it to his/her campaign but may permit his/her campaign committee to request admission for $250 even though others must pay $2,000. (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 17-139 (1) Where a slate advertisement makes direct or indirect pledges or promises on behalf of the slate which are unrelated to the faithful and impartial performance of adjudicative duties, the judicial candidate must not consent to their inclusion unless the advertisement makes clear that these statements reflect only the position of the candidates for non-judicial office. (2) Judicial candidates may state their subjective view of their qualifications relative to an opponent’s but must ensure the supporting statements are truthful and not misleading. (3) A non-incumbent judicial candidate must be careful not to imply he/she is an incumbent and, thus, must use words such as “for” or “elect” rather than merely stating his/her name and the position sought.

Opinion 18-116 Where a judicial candidate loaned his/her personal funds to the campaign, and that loan is now legally deemed a contribution, the candidate may include his/her contribution in the calculations when returning unexpended campaign funds pro rata to the candidate and to all campaign contributors after the window period ends. Thus, if the candidate’s personal loan was the campaign’s sole funding source, he/she may return all the funds entirely to him/herself as the sole contributor.

Opinion 18-105 A Supreme Court candidate seeking a political party’s nomination may circulate a petition for the party’s slate of “uncommitted” judicial delegates, where none of the delegates on the petition is publicly committed to support any Supreme Court candidate but must make clear that his/her endorsement of such delegates is for the purpose of furthering his/her own candidacy.

Opinion 18-96 A judicial candidate must not use campaign contributions to purchase new clothes for his/her election campaign.

Opinion 18-117 (1) Once a judicial candidate’s total remaining unexpended campaign funds are deemed de minimis, the candidate may (a) use these funds to purchase two judicial robes and/or (b) donate the balance to a not-for-profit entity that operates a childcare program at the courthouse for children of litigants in that court, with instructions that the funds be used for that purpose. (2) Judicial candidates who, after the conclusion of their window period, wish to donate their de minimis unexpended campaign funds to an entity other than those specifically referenced in one of our published opinions should write to the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics for guidance.

Opinion 18-121/18-122/18-123 (1) During the applicable window period, a judicial candidate generally may purchase campaign advertisements at a picnic organized by a labor union or a political party, subject to the fair value rule, even if the advertisements are labeled as “sponsorships.” (2) Where purchase of any level of sponsorship at the picnic will result in the identical advertisement (a mere listing of the candidate’s name in a brochure), the candidate may only purchase the least expensive level of sponsorship. (3) Where the picnic is sponsored by a political organization and the advertising opportunities are bundled together with tickets to the event, the judicial candidate must also comply with the limitations on price and number of tickets. (4) Where different levels of sponsorships reflect distinctly different levels of advertising visibility at the picnic, the candidate may purchase a mid-range sponsorship package resulting in mid-level visibility and one-time recognition by the master of ceremonies, provided the candidate decides his/her campaign will get fair value for the expense.

Opinion 18-14 A judge in his/her window period may use his/her own personal funds to make sponsor-level charitable donations, and permit the entity to acknowledge the donation by prominently displaying the judge’s name and judicial title, without reference to the “fair value” rule, provided these advertisements contain no reference to his/her campaign.

Opinion 16-150 May two judicial candidates in a contested election send a joint mailing to voters who request an absentee ballot?

Opinion 17-60 Where a county political party met to select its 2017 candidates on February 28, but (at the time the inquiry was decided) the party chair had publicly announced only that next year's party meeting would be held "in May 2018," without further details, what date should judicial candidates in that county use to calculate the start of their 2018 window period? Must different judicial candidates in that county count back from different dates, or may they all rely on the specific date stated in Opinion 17-60?

Opinion 16-75 May two judicial candidates who are (through their respective campaign committees) hosting a joint fund-raiser permit their campaign committees to accommodate an attendee who prefers to support only one candidate?

Opinion 15-121 May a judicial candidate permit his/her campaign committee to establish Facebook connections with the campaign committees of other candidates on the same slate?

Opinion 16-07 May a judicial candidate sign a political organization's pledge that requires the candidate to support and endorse all other candidates endorsed by the organization and to consult with it on any appointments when in public office?

Opinion 15-112/15-146 May a judicial candidate (1) pay individuals for time spent circulating petitions and gathering signatures in order to put the candidate's name on the ballot or (2) pay a 50% bonus to his/her campaign manager if the candidate is elected?

Opinion 15-83 May a judicial candidate personally guarantee to PayPal and credit card issuers that he/she will use his/her personal funds to repay them for "chargebacks" for monies mistakenly or wrongfully paid to the candidate's campaign?

Opinion 16-79 May a non-judge candidate for judicial office personally distribute campaign literature that exhorts supporters "[t]o volunteer and/or donate to" the candidate?

Opinion 15-71 May a judicial candidate participate in a pro-choice or pro-life advocacy organization's interview process, answer questions during the interview, and, if offered, accept the organization's endorsement?

Opinion 16-47 May a non-judge who is seeking election to judicial office serve on a local bar association's screening panel evaluating applicants for appointment to state or federal judicial office?

Opinion 15-01 May a non-judge who is seeking election or appointment to judicial office remain employed as a police officer until he/she takes and files his/her oath of office as a judge?

Opinion 15-196 May a judicial candidate who is a law clerk film a campaign commercial depicting a simulated case conference, if his/her responsibilities include conferencing cases on behalf of a judge? If so, what limitations apply?

Opinion 16-97 Where a judge's campaign committee has made one attempt to return the unexpended campaign funds from a prior election campaign pro rata to contributors, but some checks still have not been cashed or negotiated and some mailings were returned to the campaign committee as undeliverable, must the judge direct his/her campaign committee to investigate the correct addresses of the contributors whose checks were returned as undeliverable and re-send those mailings? If not, what should be done with the remaining funds?

Opinion 16-29/16-50 When may a judicial candidate treat his/her remaining unexpended campaign funds as de minimis? What are permissible uses for such funds once the window period expires?

Opinion 17-23 May a judge whose window period has expired keep his/her campaign account open for the sole purpose of paying outstanding legal bills from his/her former campaign?

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Political Activity - Miscellaneous

(See 22 NYCRR 100.5.)

Opinion 20-89 A judge may not mail congratulatory letters to a graduating high school class.

Opinion 20-87 May a judge accompany his/her spouse, who is a candidate for elective public office, to an election night event to await primary results?

Opinion 20-70 Where a not-for-profit, non-partisan town Grange engages in significant educational initiatives to promote rural interests and an appreciation of agriculture but also engages in advocacy and lobbying with local governments concerning local laws, policies and regulations, a town judge (1) may join the entity as a regular member but (2) must not assume leadership roles in the entity or otherwise publicly associate him/herself with organizational positions on controversial issues.

Opinion 20-64 May a part-time lawyer judge ... (3) as a full-time college professor, comment on ... politics?

Opinion 20-51 May a judge, as a member of a political party and without disclosing his/her judicial status, engage in political activity such as “writing to [state or federal] representatives or senators [to express] personal positions; attending meetings, rallies or events for candidates for office; volunteering for such candidates in any capacity at their office or in contact with the general public; canvassing in other states to support candidates for national office or candidates for office in those other states; [or] any similar efforts to support candidates for any political office”?

Opinion 20-33 A part-time judge may not serve concurrently as business agent for a correction officers’ union, where the role requires representing the interests of corrections officers in the legislative or political sphere.

Opinion 20-29 SCAR hearing officers are subject to the same restrictions as sitting judges with respect to political activities.

Opinion 20-65 A part-time non-attorney judge may continue employment in a law firm while an attorney colleague is seeking election to public office, provided the judge is not directly or indirectly involved in the attorney’s political campaign and is insulated from matters that either are, or appear to be, of a political nature.

Opinion 19-138 A judge may not participate in a conference call organized by a federal legislator to help plan an event on Capitol Hill for individuals of a particular ethnic/cultural heritage, where the program topics are legislative and political in nature.

Opinion 19-148(B) ... (2) A judge need not prohibit his/her spouse from serving as a committee member of a political party. ....

Opinion 19-113 A judge whose first-degree relative is running for office may permit him/her to mention the judge's prior service in non-judicial office in the relative's campaign advertisements, provided there is no reference to the judge's eventual judicial title or status.

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 19-129 A judge, who is not in his/her window period for election or re-election to judicial office, may not participate in an event sponsored by a local political party in which children would meet with local judges to learn about the court system.

Opinion 19-83 May a sitting judge authorize a candidate for non-judicial office to use a photograph of the two together, taken before the judge assumed the bench, for use in the candidate’s election campaign literature and keycards?

Opinion 18-174 A judge may permit his/her spouse to include factual information about the judge’s personal story in the spouse’s campaign literature, but without mention of the judge’s judicial status or title. The judge may agree to be included in a family photograph and/or family video and be identified as the candidate’s spouse in campaign literature, without reference to the judge’s judicial office and the judge does not appear in a judicial robe.

Opinion 19-29 A full-time judge (1) may not provide individualized assistance and guidance to his/her fellow congregants in completing their health care directives but may give a general lecture on the subject; and (2) may not volunteer as an escort for individuals unknown to the judge who are visiting an abortion clinic in the presence of pro-life protesters.

Opinion 18-09 A judicial hearing officer must not engage in political activities as long as the JHO designation has not been rescinded, even though an administrative judge has stated that the JHO will not be given any assignments in the current fiscal year.

Opinion 18-72 A judge may not speak about gun laws at a politically sponsored gun policy forum.

Opinion 18-108 A sitting judge may permit a political party to include his/her name and likeness on a web page that merely lists elected officials who are registered members of the party, but must advise the party not to include any political commentary on this web page, including statements of the party’s principles, political slogans, or solicitations for funds or volunteers.

Opinion 18-142 May a judge be involved in the selection and appointment process for his/her co-judge, by, for example, meeting with the nonjudicial appointing authority and advisory committee to discuss prospective appointees; providing “fact-based opinions regarding” prospective appointees; and recommending or opposing specific individuals for the appointment?

Opinion 17-142 Digest: A town justice (1) may not directly or indirectly oppose a candidate for non-judicial public office, including by distributing handouts about the other candidate's actions or qualifications; (2) may comment on, testify about, or otherwise publicly oppose a proposal to reduce the town court to a single justice; and (3) may, as a candidate for judicial office, respond to attacks on the judge's record, so long as any such response is made truthfully and without distortion.

Opinion 17-38 (1) May a judge participate in the upcoming March for Science? (2) May a judge (a) call a Senate Committee to express an opinion on a pending federal executive branch appointment; (b) sign a MoveOn.org petition concerning a federal executive branch appointment; and/or (c) participate in a local political rally, march or demonstration sponsored by grassroots organizations?

Opinion 17-54 When giving a speech about the law, the legal system or the administration of justice at a court-sponsored Law Day event, a judge should not publicly criticize or attack a sitting public official, or comment on his/her remarks. Rather, the judge should focus on the law to avoid casting doubt on his/her ability to perform judicial functions appropriately consistent with his/her legal and ethical duties.

Opinion 17-70 (1) A court attorney-referee who is an ordained rabbi may teach, preach, and write on Israel-related issues concerning the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, but not on non-legal matters of substantial public and political controversy, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (2) A court attorney-referee may join and participate in non-political events sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Hiddush, which appear to have substantial non-political purposes, but may neither join nor attend events sponsored by J Street.

Opinion 17-43 Is there a way for a part-time judge who wishes to run for non-judicial office to inform the local municipality in advance that he/she plans to resign from judicial office on a particular date, without triggering the “resign to run” rule? 

Opinion 16-85 May a judge engage in prohibited political activities, provided he/she takes care to do so anonymously?

Opinion 16-149 May a judge attend a free, non-partisan “meet the candidates” event, organized by a non-political community residents’ association, where all candidates for a particular office (i.e., both parties' candidates) will attend, speak and answer questions?

Opinion 16-169 May a judge circulate a petition to force a referendum on a proposed sale of a large nearby parcel of land owned by his/her local school district, where the petition does not take a position for or against the proposed sale and is not framed as support for or opposition to any legislator or political party or candidate?

Opinion 16-63 May a part-time judge publicly display on his/her office building a non-partisan banner stating "Your vote counts in ___ County"?

Opinion 16-52 May a judge make voter registration forms available at court facilities?

Opinion 16-94 May a part-time judge run for and serve as delegate to a state constitutional convention? When will the Committee answer questions concerning permissible campaign activities for a judge who wishes to become a constitutional delegate?

Opinion 15-188 May a judge become involved in legislative redistricting under the facts presented?

Opinion 16-60 May a judge join an informal discussion group with politically connected people to develop detailed proposals for redistricting reform, comprehensive election and voting reforms, restructuring the legislature, changes in school funding, and other highly controversial or political matters?

Opinion 15-177 Where a judge has objected to an event that was organized in the judge's name without the judge's authorization, and the event has been canceled at the judge's request, must the judge take any further action?

Opinion 15-176 May a judge reveal, discuss and explore his/her interest in receiving an interim appointment to non-judicial office with the public official who will make that decision if the position becomes vacant before the incumbent's term ends?

Opinion 15-145 May a judicial candidate who is a notary public (1) carry or pass petitions for other candidates or request petition signatures for other candidates or (2) attest that he/she witnessed signatures on petitions carried or passed by another individual?

Opinion 15-134 May a full-time principal law clerk who is a part-time SCAR hearing officer (1) run for or serve as a delegate to a political party's judicial nominating convention and/or (2) circulate nominating petitions?

Opinion 15-120 May a judge join in an advertising campaign intended to lobby political support and funding for union contract renewals for the judge's alma mater?

Opinion 15-65 What are a judge's obligations on learning that a letter he/she wrote decades ago in his/her former capacity as a non-judicial official is being anonymously circulated for partisan political purposes?

Opinion 15-62 What are a judge's obligations when the judge's spouse, who is a principal in a real estate LLC, wishes to rent a storefront to a partisan political organization?

Opinion 17-79 Digest: A judge may appear in a family photograph with his/her first-degree relative in the relative's campaign literature, provided the judge does not wear a judicial robe and nothing in the literature identifies him/her as a judge.

Opinion 17-123 Digest: A judge who presides in veterans treatment court may write to legislators asking for names of potential peer mentors to work with veteran-defendants in the program, provided the judge avoids both actual coercion and its appearance when requesting participation. Alternatively, the judge may authorize his/her resource coordinator or mentor coordinator to write such a letter.

Opinion 17-174 Digest: (1) Subject to certain limitations, a judge may serve as master of ceremonies for a close personal friend's public swearing-in ceremony. (2) A judge may sing the national anthem at a not-for-profit organization's fund-raiser, provided the judge's participation is unannounced and ancillary to the event.

Opinion 17-179 Digest: Subject to certain conditions and limitations, a full-time judge who is the president of an ethnic bar association may participate as the bar association president in a meeting with a DA-elect's transition team on issues involving the law, the legal system and the administration of justice.

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Performance of Judicial Duties - Plea Agreements; Traffic Diversion Programs; Assignment of Counsel; Authority or Power of Judge; Judicial Assignments

Opinion 20-69 When misdemeanor-level Vehicle and Traffic Law charges are before a judge on a simplified traffic information, the judge may not ask the prosecuting agency to file a long form information so the judge can sua sponte issue a criminal summons or an arrest warrant for a defendant who failed to appear.

Opinion 20-58 A part-time lawyer judge must not publish his/her judicial decisions on his/her personal social media website, where doing so may appear to (1) invite discussion, comment, or other input from members of the public or (2) indirectly promote his/her law practice.

Opinion 20-39 May a judge create generic thank you cards for his/her chambers, featuring a stock image of the exterior of the courthouse and bearing a message saying “Thank you” followed by his/her judicial title and name?

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 19-117 If authorized by law, a town or village justice may notify criminal defendants of court appearances without simultaneously notifying defense counsel.

Opinion 19-142 Must a judge recall warrants on a defendant’s failure to pay a fine and/or surcharge due to recent revisions in the Criminal Procedure Law? May the judge enter a civil judgment for the unpaid amount?

Opinion 19-145 A judge may not facilitate a traffic ticket plea reduction program instituted by the District Attorney’s office that would interfere with the court’s exercise of judicial review and discretion.

Opinion 19-63 (1) A town justice may not agree to a private meeting with the town comptroller and town board member(s) for the express purpose of explaining and justifying an apparent decrease in revenue. (2) This prohibition does not preclude the judge from communicating with town officials concerning the amount of fines and fees collected and/or the court's budgetary needs, as permitted by statutes and prior opinions. (3) The judge may also publicly discuss the court's operations, including a decrease or increase in revenue, at a town board meeting or public forum, provided he/she (a) is careful not to cast doubt on his/her integrity, impartiality, and independence in adjudicating matters that could potentially result in revenue for the town and (b) avoids impermissible comment on any identifiable pending or impending case before him/her.

Opinion 19-61 The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not preclude a town justice from requiring a defendant to perform community service with the town government, provided it is lawful to do so.

Opinion 19-52 On these facts, a judge must not refer or sentence defendants to a restorative justice program sponsored by an alternative dispute resolution center where he/she volunteers as a small claims mediator. Once the judge terminates his/her involvement with the center, however, he/she may refer or sentence defendants to the center’s restorative justice program on a case-by-case basis if legally permitted and appropriate.

Opinion 19-47 A judge may not have a court clerk enter the proposed fine on a motorist’s mail plea from a fixed schedule of fines developed by the judge -- even though the judge intends to personally review, confirm, initial and approve the fines entered by the clerk -- where the underlying fixed schedule pre-selects specific fines from the statutory range and therefore is likely to create an appearance that the judge has pre-judged certain categories of cases without individualized consideration of relevant legal factors.

Opinion 19-45 A support magistrate may report a litigant’s apparently criminal conduct to law enforcement but is not ethically required to do so. Whether and how he/she may do so in compliance with applicable statutes and regulations raises a legal question, not one of judicial ethics.

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: (1) the propriety of transferring the attorney’s cases to another venue is a legal or administrative question the Committee cannot address; ...

Opinion 19-03 (1) A judge may not email governmental agencies to obtain evidence in a disputed litigation. (2) A judge may invite attorneys to email motion papers directly to him/her, but should require that opposing counsel be copied on the email.

Opinion 18-73 The Committee cannot determine whether judges have the legal authority to introduce new steps or procedures for defendants who plead guilty by mail under Vehicle and Traffic Law 1805, as this presents a strictly legal question.

Opinion 17-176 Before seeking ethics advice on how to interact with unrepresented litigants, a New York City Housing Court judge should first consult with his/her supervising or administrative judge concerning applicable policies, procedures, and resources.

Opinion 18-26 May a town or village justice allow his/her court clerks to send notice of animal abuse convictions to the Sheriff’s Department pursuant to a county animal abuse registry law?

Opinion 18-57/17-166 A judge does not violate the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct by fulfilling his/her statutory powers, functions, and duties as a licensing officer in good-faith reliance on statutory authority and administrative guidance on how to exercise that authority. However, the judge must still abide by generally applicable ethical principles, to the extent necessary and appropriate, even when acting as a licensing officer, and thus the judge (1) must not be swayed by public clamor or fear of criticism; (2) must respect and comply with the law, including any due process requirements for such proceedings; and (3) must act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality.

Opinion 18-25 (1) A judge does not violate the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct by fulfilling his/her statutory powers, functions, and duties as a licensing officer in good-faith reliance on statutory authority and administrative guidance on how to exercise that authority. (2) The Committee cannot address legal questions such as whether or how a judge, in his/her capacity as a firearm licensing officer, may consider an applicant’s request to lift the suspension of a firearm license or which persons must be notified and given an opportunity to participate.

Opinion 18-40 A full-time judge (1) may serve on the board of a county’s assigned counsel program, where the program does not engage in litigation but instead contracts with private attorneys to undertake the representations; (2) may appoint qualified attorneys as assigned counsel in legally appropriate circumstances, even when those attorneys are his/her fellow directors; (3) may not serve on the board of a not-for-profit landlord that brings eviction proceedings in his/her court.

Opinion 18-13 May a judge ethically proceed with an off-hours arraignment if the defendant is not represented by counsel and, if not, how long must the judge wait for defense counsel to appear before adjourning the matter?

Opinion 18-04(B) If permitted by governing law, regarding documents that require the judge’s signature and whose contents include elements of judicial discretion, it is ethically permissible for the judge to authorize a court clerk to affix the judge’s signature to the document, provided (1) the judge has not, in fact, delegated his/her judicial functions, but personally made the decision; and (2) the judge consents to the use of the signature stamp on that document.

Opinion 18-51 (1) On notification from an arresting agency that a defendant requires immediate arraignment, is it ethically permissible for the judge to “call attorneys from a list provided by the county 18B program to inquire if the attorney is willing to appear on behalf of the defendant?” (2) If so, may the judge then preside over the arraignment once the defendant and the defense attorney are present? (3) Must notice be given to the District Attorney of an immediate arraignment and, if so, may the judge proceed with the arraignment if the prosecutor declines to appear or is unavailable? (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 18-36 A judge may promote diversity in courtroom participation by including a statement in his/her part rules encouraging litigators to give their knowledgeable junior colleagues more speaking and leadership roles in his/her courtroom.

Opinion 18-49 Whether a judge is authorized to act on certain declarations of delinquency from the probation department raises primarily legal questions beyond the Committee’s jurisdiction. However, a judge who makes a good-faith legal determination concerning his/her legal authority to act on these submissions necessarily acts ethically, even if the decision is reversed on appeal.

Opinion 18-109 (1) A full-time judge need not report on his/her annual statement of financial disclosure his/her theoretical involvement with a company the judge believed was completely dissolved and/or abandoned before he/she assumed judicial office, even though it is still listed as “active” on the NYS Department of Corporations website, where (a) the judge has never received any compensation or seen any evidence of business or other activity by the company, (b) the founder assured the judge that the company was never funded, never engaged in any business activity, was abandoned years ago and was thought to be dissolved, and (c) the founder has agreed that the judge should be deemed to have resigned from any theoretical involvement with the company several years ago nunc pro tunc. (2) On these facts, the judge should ask the company’s founder in writing to formally dissolve the apparently abandoned company; once the judge has made this request, the judge has no further ethical obligation.

Opinion 17-176 Before seeking ethics advice on how to interact with unrepresented litigants, a New York City Housing Court judge should first consult with his/her supervising or administrative judge concerning applicable policies, procedures, and resources.

Opinion 18-57/17-166 A judge does not violate the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct by fulfilling his/her statutory powers, functions, and duties as a licensing officer in good-faith reliance on statutory authority and administrative guidance on how to exercise that authority. However, the judge must still abide by generally applicable ethical principles, to the extent necessary and appropriate, even when acting as a licensing officer, and thus the judge (1) must not be swayed by public clamor or fear of criticism; (2) must respect and comply with the law, including any due process requirements for such proceedings; and (3) must act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality.

Opinion 18-114 A court may create and distribute a list of attorneys who are on the assigned counsel panel and are willing to represent litigants on a sliding fee scale, where the list contains a disclaimer that the court and its staff are not recommending any attorney.

Opinion 18-115 A judge may provide a letter to both sides in an ongoing proceeding which includes an excerpt from the transcript indicating that a particular issue has been resolved with no finding of medical abuse or neglect.

Opinion 17-34 On receiving a guilty plea by mail to a Vehicle & Traffic Law charge, may a judge send a form letter advising the defendant what his/her sentence will be if the court accepts the plea and stating that if the defendant wishes to change his/her plea to not guilty, he/she should appear in court at a specified date and time?

Opinion 15-220 If applicable law authorizes certain judges to delegate the authority to accept guilty pleas and set fines in certain matters, is it ethically permissible for such judges to delegate that authority under the applicable statutory scheme?

Opinion 16-42 May a judge sign a final decree of judicial settlement pursuant to SCPA § 2602(1)(b), following disqualification of the judge who issued the underlying decision?

Opinion 16-08 May a full-time City Court judge accept a temporary assignment as a Family Court judge?

Opinion 15-232 May a judge, on his/her own initiative and before the parties' first appearance, request and review grand jury minutes and/or discovery materials produced to the defense?

Opinion 16-68 May a judge voluntarily comply with guidelines requiring ethically impermissible conduct when deciding a defendant's eligibility for assigned counsel?

Opinion 16-91 May a town justice ask local not-for-profit organizations if they are willing to accept court placement of defendants to serve community service sentences, and thereafter provide their contact information to the alternatives-to-incarceration program's administrator? After doing so, what steps must the judge take if the judge wishes to participate in activities organized by such entities?

Opinion 16-48 Must a judge who ordered a transcript to be redacted provide an unredacted copy to counsel on request?

Opinion 15-226 May a judge order payment to a former guardian ad litem for services which pre-date the attorney's employment with the Unified Court System? Does it matter if the former guardian ad litem now serves as principal law clerk to another judge (i.e., one who is not presiding in the case)?

Opinion 16-09 May a judge send a letter to defendants who plead guilty by mail advising them sua sponte that they may change their plea to "not guilty" and either conference the matter with the prosecutor or negotiate a reduced plea?

Opinion 15-152 May a judge accept a plea conditioned on a defendant writing an essay about traffic safety?

Opinion 15-34 May a judge approve a plea agreement which requires a defendant to participate in a district attorney's traffic ticket diversion program, when the program involves a non-refundable application fee?

Opinion 16-113 May a judge "participate" in a traffic diversion program where defendants are charged a fee to participate, and the judge is concerned the fee may violate Vehicle & Traffic Law §1804?

Opinion 16-92 May a part-time judge participate in a District Attorney's traffic diversion program by (1) adjourning a defendant's case for 60 days at the DA's request so the defendant can take part in the program and then (2) dismissing the charges at the DA's request after successful completion, where defendants are charged a fee to participate in the diversion program?

Opinion 15-230 May a judge require defendants seeking re-sentencing under CPL 420.10 to complete a form requesting the same information the judge would otherwise request orally in court?

Opinion 15-127 May judges delegate to their court clerks the authority to impose a pre-determined fine for traffic infractions, by means of a standing court order with a fixed schedule of fines?

Opinion 15-85 May a judge sua sponte review a defendant's driving history before accepting or rejecting a proposed plea agreement? If so, must the judge disclose the contents of the driving history to the parties and counsel?

Opinion 15-56 May a judge post the procedure for resolving a traffic ticket on the Unified Court System's website?

Opinion 15-50 May a judge, in order to collect fines or surcharges he/she imposed on a defendant for parking violations, contact another court to ask that payment be made a condition of any disposition of the defendant's case in the other court?

Opinion 15-47 May a judge require, as a condition of joining a treatment court program, that the defendant must agree to participate in an exercise program? If so, may the judge thereafter attend or participate in the exercise program together with treatment court participants?

Opinion 17-104 May a judge hold "off-hours" arraignments in a publicly accessible area of a county jail as part of an initiative to provide counsel to defendants at arraignment?

Opinion 17-114 May a judge presiding over a civil matter involving allegations of sexual abuse committed by a non-party minor solicit pro bono representation for the non-party minor?

Opinion 17-110 Digest: A judge may suggest alternatives to a plea agreement offered by a defendant and prosecutor, provided the judge does so non-coercively and is careful not to create an impression he/she has prejudged the case's merits. Prior opinions are modified to clarify that a judge may, subject to significant ethical, constitutional, and statutory limits, initiate, suggest, or facilitate plea agreements.

Opinion 17-144 Digest: A town or village justice who is not a notary public may authenticate documents where legally permitted to do so, provided he/she does not improperly lend the prestige of judicial office to advance private interests or otherwise create an appearance of impropriety. An otherwise permissible good-faith authentication of a document does not become improper merely because it is submitted in litigation.

Opinion 17-123 Digest: A judge who presides in veterans treatment court may write to legislators asking for names of potential peer mentors to work with veteran-defendants in the program, provided the judge avoids both actual coercion and its appearance when requesting participation. Alternatively, the judge may authorize his/her resource coordinator or mentor coordinator to write such a letter.

Opinion 17-152 Digest: (1) A Family Court judge may inform children that the court is willing to display their artwork in public spaces and identify them by first name or initials and may personally solicit donations of children's artwork for display in Family Court from local school teachers and/or children who have pending permanency hearings. (2) The judge may personally send a thank-you note to a teacher or child who sends artwork to the court, but should copy all parties or their attorneys if the child is appearing before the court. Alternatively, the judge may direct the chief clerk to send a thank-you note on behalf of the court. (3) Subject to any appropriate administrative approvals, the judge may direct the Family Court to (a) issue a press release about the court's children's art gallery and invite children to submit artwork; (b) invite the child artists, their families, and, if applicable, their attorneys, to an "opening" display of their artwork; and (c) accept the children's artwork as gifts to the Unified Court System.

Opinion 17-159 Digest: Under these circumstances, a town justice may respond to the town's fraud risk questionnaire about the financial and anti-fraud controls in the town court.
 

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Ex Parte Communications

(22 NYCRR 100.3[B][6])

Opinion 20-80 A court-attorney referee may set up an email auto-response to provide general legal and ethical information to unrepresented litigants and others, provided the message is consistent with the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. However, the referee should not refer to him/herself as a “jurist” in this auto-response message.

Opinion 20-58 A part-time lawyer judge must not publish his/her judicial decisions on his/her personal social media website, where doing so may appear to (1) invite discussion, comment, or other input from members of the public or (2) indirectly promote his/her law practice.

Opinion 20-38 (1) A judge may discuss pending or impending matters with other judges and court clerks at a magistrate’s association meeting, assuming this is a confidential setting with no others present. (2) Where a judicial association’s email contact list includes individuals who are not judges or court personnel, a judge cannot assume the emailed discussions are confidential or private and therefore must take particular care to observe generally applicable limitations on judicial speech.

Opinion 19-117 If authorized by law, a town or village justice may notify criminal defendants of court appearances without simultaneously notifying defense counsel.

Opinion 19-107 (1) On these facts, where a judge, in the course of his/her judicial duties, becomes aware of a party’s apparent attempt to undermine the judge’s judicial decision by filing a declaratory judgment action in another court and seeking a default judgment without disclosing related actions, the judge may, but is not required to, inform the other judge of the relevant facts. If the judge chooses to contact the other judge, he/she must do so in writing and copy both sides. ...

Opinion 19-08 A judge may consult ex parte with duly elected or appointed judges, even if they preside in courts other than the Unified Court System, concerning cases before him/her. In doing so, the judge should make reasonable efforts to preserve confidentiality.

Opinion 19-03 (1) A judge may not email governmental agencies to obtain evidence in a disputed litigation. (2) A judge may invite attorneys to email motion papers directly to him/her, but should require that opposing counsel be copied on the email.

Opinion 18-51 (1) On notification from an arresting agency that a defendant requires immediate arraignment, is it ethically permissible for the judge to “call attorneys from a list provided by the county 18B program to inquire if the attorney is willing to appear on behalf of the defendant?” (2) If so, may the judge then preside over the arraignment once the defendant and the defense attorney are present? (3) Must notice be given to the District Attorney of an immediate arraignment and, if so, may the judge proceed with the arraignment if the prosecutor declines to appear or is unavailable? (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 18-38 Absent any factors that would create an appearance of impropriety, a judge who has taken over a case on another judge’s retirement due to age may initiate ex parte communications with the retired judge concerning that case, and may discuss legal and factual issues with him/her. The judge need not disclose such communications to the parties or their counsel.

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 17-107 Digest: A judge must not permit or consider a witness's ex parte request to dismiss a traffic summons for a moving violation, unless the judge determines that applicable law specifically authorizes him/her to do so.

Opinion 17-112 May a judge grant the probation department's ex parte request to exempt from disclosure the victim impact statement contained in the pre-sentence investigation report?

Opinion 17-15 May a Family Court judge send a sympathy card to the family of a decedent who was formerly the subject of juvenile delinquency proceedings before the judge?

Opinion 17-53 What are the obligations of a judge presiding in a juvenile delinquency matter, who receives a social media message from the victim's first-degree relative containing substantive discussion of the case?

Opinion 16-140 May a judge consider a defendant's written form application for assigned counsel ex parte and make a determination of financial eligibility on an ex parte basis, where the form focuses solely on the defendant's financial information and does not invite substantive communications? What factors distinguish Opinion 16-68 and Opinion 16-140?

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 15-209 May a part-time judge consult ex parte with court personnel who staff the City, Town and Village Courts Resource Center? Must there be notice and/or disclosure to the parties in the case?

Opinion 15-178 In a court where judges repeatedly receive attempted ex parte communications from elected officials on behalf of their constituents, what steps should the judges take?

Opinion 16-155 What steps should a judge take on learning that his/her second-degree relative has, in his/her capacity as a member of a religious institution, commenced an informal counseling relationship with a defendant who is appearing before the judge in a long-running high-profile criminal matter?

Opinion 15-148 May a judge who formerly represented a particular category of litigants in the specialized court where he/she now sits remain on the private e-mail list for a former colleague's summaries, commentary, and compilations of recent cases?

Opinion 15-106 Must a judge disclose that he/she engaged in a brief and non-substantive conversation with an attorney at a bar association function, while the attorney had a case pending before the judge? 

Opinion 15-85 May a judge sua sponte review a defendant's driving history before accepting or rejecting a proposed plea agreement? If so, must the judge disclose the contents of the driving history to the parties and counsel?

Opinion 15-47 May a judge require, as a condition of joining a treatment court program, that the defendant must agree to participate in an exercise program? If so, may the judge thereafter attend or participate in the exercise program together with treatment court participants?

Opinion 17-109 Digest: 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.

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Judicial Independence - Separation of Powers; Assisting/Cooperating with Prosecutors or Law Enforcement

(See e.g. 22 NYCRR 100.0[R]-[S])

Sub-Topics: Separation of Powers | Alignment with Prosecution or Law Enforcement | Impartiality and Independence Generally; Proper Role or Function of Judge

 

Separation of Powers

Opinion 19-158 May a town justice attend public town board meetings as an observer?

Opinion 19-124 (1) On these facts, a town justice must prohibit a town board member from spending the entire day in the court clerks' office to monitor their work....

Opinion 19-63 (1) A town justice may not agree to a private meeting with the town comptroller and town board member(s) for the express purpose of explaining and justifying an apparent decrease in revenue. (2) This prohibition does not preclude the judge from communicating with town officials concerning the amount of fines and fees collected and/or the court's budgetary needs, as permitted by statutes and prior opinions. (3) The judge may also publicly discuss the court's operations, including a decrease or increase in revenue, at a town board meeting or public forum, provided he/she (a) is careful not to cast doubt on his/her integrity, impartiality, and independence in adjudicating matters that could potentially result in revenue for the town and (b) avoids impermissible comment on any identifiable pending or impending case before him/her.

Opinion 19-20 A judge who decides in good faith he/she may legally execute and file an undertaking can do so without violating the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.

Opinion 19-80 (1) Where a village’s sexual harassment policy purports to subject all village officials and employees to corrective action or discipline at the local level and to impose new legal duties on them, a village justice (a) may acknowledge receipt of the policy but (b) must not agree to comply with it unless the judge determines he/she is legally required to do so. (2) The justice may attend, and permit the court clerk to attend, the village’s mandatory compliance training for sexual harassment and workplace violence, where the program is educational and preventive in nature. (3) The justice may permit the court clerk to certify he/she will abide by the village’s sexual harassment policy, provided that doing so does not interfere or conflict with the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.

Opinion 18-161 May a village justice sign a statement of compliance with the village’s recently adopted policy on non-discrimination and harassment?

Opinion 18-156 (1) A town justice need not object to the town’s video security cameras, where the cameras have no microphones or audio capabilities, do not intrude into the courtroom or otherwise improperly interfere with court operations, and do not permit monitoring inside the judge’s chambers. (2) If the town attempts to re-install a camera in the courtroom, the judge should object in writing and notify an appropriate administrative or supervising judge. (3) The judge may, if he/she chooses, petition town officials to restrict access to the video cameras and/or ask them to transfer the monitoring and control functions to court personnel.

Opinion 17-73 May a village justice acquiesce in a proposed merger of the clerical offices of the village court and the village executive branch?

Opinion 17-32 May a town judge permit his/her court clerks to certify that they will abide by the town ethics code?

Opinion 16-55 May a town judge sign a statement (1) certifying his/her "responsibility to comply with the guidelines stated in" the town ethics code and (2) acknowledging "that any willful violation of these guidelines may be cause for suspension or dismissal from Town employment or removal from Town office"?

Opinion 15-215 ... (2) May a village justice provide the village trustees with a monthly report indicating the number of cases that have been opened during that period and the total number of cases that remain pending at the end of each month?

Opinion 17-159 Digest: Under these circumstances, a town justice may respond to the town's fraud risk questionnaire about the financial and anti-fraud controls in the town court.

 

Assisting or Cooperating with Prosecution or Law Enforcement; Appearance of Alignment with Same

Opinion 20-99 (1) A town or village justice court must not “collaborate” or “work with” the district attorney’s office or the local town/village prosecutor. (2) The court may nonetheless invite defense bar representatives and the appropriate prosecutorial office to discuss procedures for handling mail-in pleas on traffic infractions. (3) The court must not promote or favor mail-in pleas and/or plea bargaining over a defendant motorist’s other options, even if this is intended to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. The court may, however, distribute a court-prepared form (such as UCS DCJA Form 1.0) impartially listing all options for a defendant motorist and include a link to the District Attorney’s website and/or email address as a convenience to defendants.

Opinion 20-97 A court must not be in the position of advocating a negotiated plea and, thus, must not distribute the District Attorney’s “informational document” to defendant motorists or otherwise implement the DA’s procedure for facilitating defendants’ pleas to lesser charges in Vehicle and Traffic Law matters. The court may, however, distribute a court-prepared form impartially listing all options for a defendant motorist and include a link to the DA’s website as a convenience to defendant motorists.

Opinion 20-94 May a village justice permit the court clerk to help the village attorney prepare plea bargain letters to defendant motorists, by inputting each defendant’s name and address and the officer, docket number and charges on each letter, where the letters would be mailed out on the village attorney’s letterhead with no visible sign of the court’s involvement?

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 20-69 When misdemeanor-level Vehicle and Traffic Law charges are before a judge on a simplified traffic information, the judge may not ask the prosecuting agency to file a long form information so the judge can sua sponte issue a criminal summons or an arrest warrant for a defendant who failed to appear.

Opinion 20-66 A town justice may permit a court security officer to take defendants’ fingerprints within a secured area of the courthouse.

Opinion 19-163 (1) Absent a legal obligation to do so, a court must not help the prosecution meet its discovery obligations by holding and/or delivering discovery packets prepared by law enforcement agencies. (2) A town justice may not meet with the special prosecutor to discuss criminal justice reforms unless attorneys representing defense interests are also invited to attend.

Opinion 19-168 (1) A justice court may not disseminate the prosecutor’s plea offer document to defendants at arraignment. (2) When both sides are present, a judge may negotiate a plea offer with a defendant, subject to significant ethical, constitutional, and statutory limits. (3) When the prosecutor gives the defendant a written plea offer and then declines to appear in court, the judge may accept the stipulated plea offer if he/she concludes it is legally appropriate.

Opinion 19-145 A judge may not facilitate a traffic ticket plea reduction program instituted by the District Attorney’s office that would interfere with the court’s exercise of judicial review and discretion.

Opinion 19-38 A part-time judge may not serve as a fire investigator in the same county where he/she presides.

Opinion 18-76 A part-time judge (1) may not serve as a county fire investigator for the same county where he/she presides but (2) may serve as a volunteer instructor at a regional police academy sponsored by a police organization in a neighboring county, where the students are police recruits who will not commence work until after they complete the training.

Opinion 19-41 A judge may not serve on an advisory committee that makes recommendations to the District Attorney regarding a convicted offender’s application to vacate a prior conviction, even if the judge will not be personally identified in the recommendation and the DA maintains full authority over his/her response to the application before the court.

Opinion 18-26 May a town or village justice allow his/her court clerks to send notice of animal abuse convictions to the Sheriff’s Department pursuant to a county animal abuse registry law?

Opinion 17-161 A judge who had, as an assistant district attorney, prosecuted a case in which the DA’s office now seeks to reevaluate the conviction may, but is not required to, meet with attorneys seeking to vacate that conviction. The fact that the judge has met with the prosecutorial office that is currently re-investigating the case does not change the analysis.

Opinion 17-04 "Digest: A judge may not attend a three-day human trafficking seminar sponsored by federal prosecutorial and law enforcement agencies, where the program will focus primarily on strategies for effective prosecution."

Opinion 16-167 May a town justice simultaneously serve as a federal prosecutor?

Opinion 15-197(B) "Digest: (1) A town or village justice may not assist the District Attorney by contacting each prosecution witness, complainant and police officer concerning their upcoming court appearances. (2) Opinion 09-173 is hereby amended so that justice courts should not notify such witnesses for the District Attorney, even if the court is willing to do the same for defendants and defense attorneys on request."

Opinion 16-101"Digest: The effective date of Opinion 15-197(B) is September 1, 2016."

Opinion 15-197(A) May a town justice assist prosecutors by (a) arranging meetings with the prosecutor's prospective witnesses and/or (b) instructing such witnesses to bring lab reports or other possible evidentiary materials to court?

Opinion 15-198 May a judge attend a magistrates' association meeting held at a local correctional facility?

Opinion 16-73 May a judge and his/her family attend a defensive driving program hosted by the police department exclusively for police personnel and their families and otherwise closed to the public? Does it make a difference if they would pay their own way?

Opinion 15-217 May a judge fax a copy of the court's weekly calendar to the Department of Homeland Security for their review and determination in what defendants may be potential risks or illegal aliens, for the office to pursue?

Opinion 15-215 (1) May a village justice provide the local police department with a monthly report cataloging the number of arrests, parking tickets, traffic tickets and calls for service involving various law enforcement entities? ...

Opinion 15-184 May a judge attend a meeting with the local STOP DWI Coordinator and the Sheriff's Department to discuss methods of collecting unpaid fines from defendants sentenced on DWI convictions?

Opinion 15-56 May a judge post the procedure for resolving a traffic ticket on the Unified Court System's website?

Opinion 15-50 May a judge, in order to collect fines or surcharges he/she imposed on a defendant for parking violations, contact another court to ask that payment be made a condition of any disposition of the defendant's case in the other court?

Opinion 17-36 May a town justice serve as the town attorney for another town in the same county, where there will be no prosecutorial component to that town attorney position?

Opinion 18-147 On these facts, a judge may not participate in an athletic/sporting event organized and promoted solely by the local District Attorney’s office.

 

Impartiality and Independence Generally; Alignment with Defense or Other Interests; Proper Role or Function of Judge

Opinion 19-145 A judge may not facilitate a traffic ticket plea reduction program instituted by the District Attorney’s office that would interfere with the court’s exercise of judicial review and discretion.

Opinion 19-79 A supervising judge who received a request from the Commission on Judicial Conduct for counseling memos, corrective action plans, and personal notes related to his/her supervision of certain judges currently under disciplinary investigation is not ethically required to provide such materials voluntarily.

Opinion 19-50 A judge may not display a rainbow flag or rainbow heart sticker on the bench or in the courtroom.

Opinion 19-47 A judge may not have a court clerk enter the proposed fine on a motorist’s mail plea from a fixed schedule of fines developed by the judge -- even though the judge intends to personally review, confirm, initial and approve the fines entered by the clerk -- where the underlying fixed schedule pre-selects specific fines from the statutory range and therefore is likely to create an appearance that the judge has pre-judged certain categories of cases without individualized consideration of relevant legal factors.

Opinion 19-21 A judge may not suggest or recommend that an inmate make an application to the governor’s office of clemency nor may the judge take affirmative actions in furtherance of that suggestion or recommendation.

Opinion 19-03 (1) A judge may not email governmental agencies to obtain evidence in a disputed litigation. (2) A judge may invite attorneys to email motion papers directly to him/her, but should require that opposing counsel be copied on the email.

Opinion 18-15 A judge may not serve on a local committee to address bail reform whose membership will consist exclusively of defense representatives and community members since the organizers have declined to invite any prosecutorial, police, or law enforcement agency representatives.

Opinion 17-110 Digest: A judge may suggest alternatives to a plea agreement offered by a defendant and prosecutor, provided the judge does so non-coercively and is careful not to create an impression he/she has prejudged the case's merits. Prior opinions are modified to clarify that a judge may, subject to significant ethical, constitutional, and statutory limits, initiate, suggest, or facilitate plea agreements.

Opinion 17-101 May a judge meet privately with attorneys who represent criminal defendants concerning a "defense perspective" on the court's handling of "discovery, diversion and disposition of cases," where the meeting will expressly exclude any prosecutors?

Opinion 17-61 A judge may not intervene in a criminal defendant's appeal by advising the parties of his/her belief that he/she correctly stated the legal standard during voir dire, and that the transcript is erroneous, where the judge does not recall his/her exact words and the judge's alleged misstatement is a basis for the appeal.

Opinion 16-02 May a judge partner with, or commit the court to partner with, entities applying for a grant to create a domestic violence advocacy program? May the judge or the court participate in the ongoing administration of the resulting advocacy program?

Opinion 15-165 May a judge provide the court's internal weekly case summaries to a newspaper for publication?

Opinion 15-50 May a judge, in order to collect fines or surcharges he/she imposed on a defendant for parking violations, contact another court to ask that payment be made a condition of any disposition of the defendant's case in the other court?

Opinion 15-30 May a judge affirmatively assist a newspaper in improving the accuracy of its reporting by regularly supplying factual information to the newspaper about cases in the judge's court?

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Application of Part 100; Authority of Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics

(See 22 NYCRR 100.6[A].)

Incoming and Outgoing Judges; Start or End of Judicial Term

Opinion 18-16 After fully retiring from all positions in the court system, may a part-time judge who also serves as law clerk for an administrative or supervising judge appear in courts in the same county and municipality and accept assigned counsel appointments?

Opinion 16-136 May a sitting judge who will be retiring at the end of the year agree to be the guest of honor at a not-for-profit educational institution's fund-raising dinner to be held next year?

Opinion 16-63 When does a non-judge who has been appointed to judicial office become subject to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct?

Opinion 15-01 May a non-judge who is seeking election or appointment to judicial office remain employed as a police officer until he/she takes and files his/her oath of office as a judge?

Legal or Administrative Questions

Opinion 19-142 Must a judge recall warrants on a defendant’s failure to pay a fine and/or surcharge due to recent revisions in the Criminal Procedure Law? May the judge enter a civil judgment for the unpaid amount?

Opinion 19-124 ... (2) A town justice must attend the town's sexual harassment prevention training program if legally required to do so.

Opinion 19-117 If authorized by law, a town or village justice may notify criminal defendants of court appearances without simultaneously notifying defense counsel.

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: (1) the propriety of transferring the attorney’s cases to another venue is a legal or administrative question the Committee cannot address; ...

Opinion 19-20 A judge who decides in good faith he/she may legally execute and file an undertaking can do so without violating the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.

Opinion 17-176 Before seeking ethics advice on how to interact with unrepresented litigants, a New York City Housing Court judge should first consult with his/her supervising or administrative judge concerning applicable policies, procedures, and resources.

Past Conduct; Conduct of Third Parties; Hypothetical or Speculative Questions

Opinion 17-140 Where a prosecutor has provided certain Brady materials involving a particular police officer in one case, what should the judge do in a hypothetical future case involving the same police officer, if the prosecutor fails to make the same disclosure?

Opinion 17-64 May the Committee comment on past conduct?

Opinion 17-37 Digest: The Committee declines to answer hypothetical questions.

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New Judges

(See also "Full-Time Judges; Winding Down One's Law Practice; Providing Legal Advice to Family" and Winding Down - Opinion Digests (December 2018) [PDF with links])

Opinion 19-148(B) (1) A judge may collect fees for legal work done before assuming full-time judicial office, only if the fee arrangement is otherwise proper....

Opinion 19-125 A part-time attorney judge may continue to represent a client as guardian pursuant to a Part 36 assignment made before the judge assumed the bench. Where the appointment is a continuing one, the representation need not be completed within one year.

Opinion 18-22 A new full-time judge who previously served as guardian ad litem in a federal case may (1) voluntarily provide a factual statement or affidavit about his/her former service as guardian ad litem; (2) respond to the federal judge’s questions about whether a new guardian ad litem should be appointed; and (3) appear pro se concerning his/her fees for work previously performed as guardian ad litem.

Opinion 18-17 May a part-time justice (1) complete his/her prior Part 36 assignments that he/she received prior to taking the bench, including as a referee in foreclosure, and (2) accept new assignments as a referee in foreclosure matters. [Note: Point #1 modified by Opinion 19-125.]

Opinion 15-128 May a new full-time judge, whose former law partner is temporarily unavailable for medical reasons, continue to accept and deposit fees, issue checks to clients and the firm and pay expenses as necessary to wind up the law firm's affairs until the partner recovers or new counsel is hired? May the judge use law firm letterhead after assuming judicial office to explain the circumstances to judges presiding over his/her former partner's cases and to request adjournments as needed?

Opinion 15-126 (1) May a full-time judge request and accept fees for work he/she performed before assuming the bench? (2) May a judge preside in matters where his/her former law partner appears as counsel? (3) May a judge appoint his/her former partners to fiduciary positions? (4) May a judge who previously served as counsel to the public administrator preside over cases in which the public administrator appears?

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Media Relations

Opinion 18-59 May a judge be interviewed by a news station about an alternatives to incarceration program?

Opinion 17-163/18-03/18-21 Subject to certain limitations, a full-time judge may, without compensation, (1) participate in an interview for a commercially produced television documentary series concerning a case he/she prosecuted over a decade ago, provided the case has completely terminated and no related proceedings are pending or impending; (2) appear occasionally on a commercially produced news program hosted by his/her first-degree relative, to share family-friendly jokes or riddles; and (3) appear on a commercially produced news segment in honor of the achievements of individuals who share a particular racial, ethnic, or cultural background or heritage. In each instance, the judge need not conceal his/her identity as a judge or his/her participation in the program but should not personally promote the program to the public at large.

Opinion 17-84 May a judge give a regionally exclusive newspaper interview about his/her life story, religious activity, career path and work-life balance?

Opinion 16-26 Must a Court of Claims judge disclose or disqualify him/herself from cases involving the Attorney General's office, based solely on media efforts to link the judge and his/her spouse with a person whom the Attorney General is investigating?

Opinion 15-182 May a judge who wrote and published a law-related book permit a commercial television producer to make a television series based on the judge's book for a commercial television station? If so, may the judge serve as a host for the television series or be interviewed for the series?

Opinion 15-165 May a judge provide the court's internal weekly case summaries to a newspaper for publication?

Opinion 15-100 May a judicial association publicly respond to a newspaper article which sets forth a local attorney's criticisms of another judge? What are the advantages and disadvantages, from a judicial ethics perspective, of various possible types of responses to public criticism?

Opinion 15-30 May a judge affirmatively assist a newspaper in improving the accuracy of its reporting by regularly supplying factual information to the newspaper about cases in the judge's court?

Opinion 15-24 May a judge agree to be profiled in a local, bimonthly publication and featured on its cover where the resulting article would address the judge's legal career, current judicial position, personal life and possibly prior public service?

Opinion 14-37 Is it ethically permissible for a judge to write articles about legal procedure for quarterly publication in a local newspaper with limited circulation?

Opinion 13-31 May a judge agree to be interviewed for an article in the local weekly newspaper about the judge's background as a police officer, prosecutor and judge?

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Uncategorized

Opinion 18-124 A town justice, on behalf of the justice court, may accept a testamentary bequest so-ordered by the surrogate’s court to hold a holiday party at the courthouse. The court may invite lawyers to attend the party by posting notices with the bar association and/or at the courthouse.

Opinion 18-109 (1) A full-time judge need not report on his/her annual statement of financial disclosure his/her theoretical involvement with a company the judge believed was completely dissolved and/or abandoned before he/she assumed judicial office, even though it is still listed as “active” on the NYS Department of Corporations website, where (a) the judge has never received any compensation or seen any evidence of business or other activity by the company, (b) the founder assured the judge that the company was never funded, never engaged in any business activity, was abandoned years ago and was thought to be dissolved, and (c) the founder has agreed that the judge should be deemed to have resigned from any theoretical involvement with the company several years ago nunc pro tunc. (2) On these facts, the judge should ask the company’s founder in writing to formally dissolve the apparently abandoned company; once the judge has made this request, the judge has no further ethical obligation.

Opinion 18-101 Justice court websites may not include extensive information promoting a DA’s traffic diversion program, where the proposed language explains the program’s goals and purported benefits to participants; provides detailed application instructions; and states that the program is intended to improve prosecutorial efficiency. However, a justice court website may include a link to the DA’s website as a convenience to defendant motorists.

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 17-161 A judge who had, as an assistant district attorney, prosecuted a case in which the DA’s office now seeks to reevaluate the conviction may, but is not required to, meet with attorneys seeking to vacate that conviction. The fact that the judge has met with the prosecutorial office that is currently re-investigating the case does not change the analysis.

Opinion 17-105 Digest: 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 17-101 May a judge meet privately with attorneys who represent criminal defendants concerning a "defense perspective" on the court's handling of "discovery, diversion and disposition of cases," where the meeting will expressly exclude any prosecutors?

Opinion 17-61 A judge may not intervene in a criminal defendant's appeal by advising the parties of his/her belief that he/she correctly stated the legal standard during voir dire, and that the transcript is erroneous, where the judge does not recall his/her exact words and the judge's alleged misstatement is a basis for the appeal.

Opinion 17-15 May a Family Court judge send a sympathy card to the family of a decedent who was formerly the subject of juvenile delinquency proceedings before the judge?

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 15-136 May a judge permit a student to make an audiovisual recording of a court proceeding?

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