Recently Broadcast Opinions

The Committee's published opinions are searchable online and on Westlaw. In addition, many opinions are sent to the Buffalo Law Journal, the Magistrate, the New York Daily Record, and/or the New York Law Journal.

 

The Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics recently issued the following opinions, which are linked below.

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October 31, 2018 Broadcast

Opinion 17-139 Digest: (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 18-31 Digest: 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 18-34 Digest: A full-time quasi-judicial official may not appear on a private law firm’s podcast.

Opinion 18-35 Digest: (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 18-39 Digest: 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 18-43 Digest: (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 18-47 Digest: 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 18-49 Digest: 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 18-62 Digest: A judge may preside in cases where a judicial colleague’s former temporary part-time law clerk appears, provided he/she can be fair and impartial. Disclosure is not required. Under the circumstances, the judge also need not insulate his/her principal court attorney from cases involving the former law clerk, even though the court attorney provided supervision and guidance.

Opinion 18-63 Digest: 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 18-65 Digest: 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 18-66 Digest: 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 18-70 Digest: 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 18-71 May a support magistrate continue to serve as an appointed trustee on his/her local board of education?

Opinion 18-72 Digest: A judge may not speak about gun laws at a politically sponsored gun policy forum.

 

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August 7, 2018 Broadcast

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.)

Opinion 18-23/18-56 Digest: (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 18-28 Digest: (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 18-30 Digest: A judge whose first-degree relative is a part-time dispatcher with the sheriff’s department: (1) is not automatically disqualified from presiding over cases involving the sheriff’s department and need not affirmatively ask if his/her relative served as dispatcher; (2) should instruct the relative to advise the judge if he/she is likely to become a witness or otherwise appear in the judge’s court but otherwise discourage any discussion of the relative’s work as a dispatcher; and (3) is disqualified from a case, without the possibility of remittal, if he/she learns the relative was the dispatcher on the case and could be called as a witness.

Opinion 18-32 Digest: 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 18-41 Digest: 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 18-44(A) Digest: A judge need not recuse him/herself from matters involving a credit union in which the judge is a member and account holder.

Opinion 18-44(B) Digest: 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) Digest: 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 18-46 Digest: 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 18-50 Digest: 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 18-58 Digest: (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 18-64 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 18-68 Digest: 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 18-74 Digest: 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 18-78 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 18-85 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 18-88 Digest: 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.

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July 25, 2018 Broadcast

Opinion 17-163/18-03/18-21 Digest: 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 18-20 Digest: 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 18-24 Digest: 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 18-27 Digest: 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 18-29 Digest: 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 18-33 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 18-36 Digest: 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 18-37 Digest: 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 18-38 Digest: 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 18-42 Digest: (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 18-51 Digest: (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 18-52 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 18-54 Digest: 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 18-55 Digest: 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 18-59 May a judge be interviewed by a news station about an alternatives to incarceration program?

Opinion 18-69 Digest: 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 18-75 Digest: Where a part-time attorney judge shares office space with the owner of an abstract company who performs administrative tasks for the judge in lieu of rent, the judge need not prohibit him/her from accepting employment as the part-time secretary to the county public defender, but must be careful to avoid any discussion of public defender’s cases with him/her. The judge may continue to preside in matters in which the public defender’s office appears, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 18-80 Digest: (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 18-81 Digest: 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 18-95 Digest: 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.

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May 18, 2018 Broadcast

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

Opinion 17-181 Digest: Under the circumstances, a judge who inadvertently presided in a matter involving a recent former client, and received ex parte communications from the former client after deciding the matter adversely to him/her, must make full disclosure to both sides by letter to counsel. The judge must disqualify him/herself from any post-trial, post-judgment applications and any other proceedings in the matter.

Opinion 17-182 Digest: 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 18-04(B) Digest: 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 18-06 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 18-09 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 18-11 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 18-13 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 18-14 Digest: 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 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 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.

Opinion 18-18 Digest: 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 18-25 Digest: (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 Digest: 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 18-48 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 18-57/17-166 Digest: 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 18-60 Digest: 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 18-61 Digest: (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.

 

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April 13, 2018 Broadcast

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 17-177 Digest: 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 17-180 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 17-183 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 17-184 May a support magistrate also serve as a part-time town justice?

Opinion 17-185 Digest: 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 18-02 Digest: 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 18-07 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 18-08 Digest: 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 18-10 Digest: 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 18-12 Digest: (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 18-15 Digest: 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 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 18-22 Digest: 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 18-53 Digest: 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 18-57/17-166 Digest: 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.

 

 

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March 6, 2018 Broadcast

Opinion 17-116/17-132 Digest: (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 17-120 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 17-123 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 17-135 Digest: 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 17-144 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 17-158 Digest: 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 17-159 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.

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 17-164 Digest: 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 17-171 May a part-time town or village justice serve as law clerk to a Supreme Court Justice?

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 17-173 Digest: 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 17-175 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 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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January 26, 2018 Broadcast

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 17-109 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.

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

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

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?

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

Opinion 17-179 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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December 5, 2017 Broadcast

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 17-125 May a part-time village justice 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 17-129 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?

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 17-141 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 17-143 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.

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

Opinion 17-147 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 17-152 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 17-153 Digest: 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.

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?

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

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?

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.

 

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December 4, 2017 Broadcast

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 17-107 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 17-108 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 17-110 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 17-117 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 17-122 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 17-126 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 17-127 May a Surrogate appoint his/her former law firm associate as public administrator?

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 17-134 (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? (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 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 17-142 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 17-146 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.

 

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November 3, 2017 Broadcast

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.

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

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

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

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 17-118 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 17-124 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 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 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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September 14, 2017 Broadcast

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?

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 17-53 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 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 17-55 Digest: 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 17-56 Digest: 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 17-61 Digest: 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 17-67 Digest: 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 17-68 Digest: (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. (3) The judge may attend the court attorney's fund-raisers and make contributions from his/her personal funds but may not assist with any solicitation.

Opinion 17-69 Digest: 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 Digest: (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 17-76 Digest: 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 17-80 May a judicial association accept a donation of food from a local restaurant for an upcoming cultural celebration open to the public?

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

Opinion 17-89 May a town justice preside over matters assigned to staff attorneys in the Public Defender's office, after the Public Defender is elected to the Town Board?

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

Opinion 17-91 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 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 17-94 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 17-96 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?

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

Opinion 17-104 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?

 

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August 11, 2017 Broadcast

Opinion 17-49 Digest: 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 17-50 May a village justice hear a summary proceeding where the village attorney is appearing on behalf of a private client?

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 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 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 17-58 Digest: 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 17-59 Digest: 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 17-62 May a part-time judge accept employment as counsel to the county legislature?

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

Opinion 17-64 May the Committee comment on past conduct?

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.

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

Opinion 17-77 May a judge serve as a housing resource for a third-degree relative on parole?

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 17-83 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 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 17-86 Digest: 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 17-88 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 17-101 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?

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June 21, 2017 Broadcast

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 17-16 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 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 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 17-42 Digest: A part-time judge may also be a full-time academic SUNY employee administering and overseeing a SUNY-hosted police cadet academy.

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

Opinion 17-72 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 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 17-78 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 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 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.

 

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May 17, 2017 Broadcast

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

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

Opinion 17-30 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 17-34 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 17-35 May a judge speak to an audience of animal control officers about court procedures in dangerous-dog and unlicensed-dog cases?

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 17-44 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 17-45 May a town justice continue to serve as County Attorney in the same county where he/she presides?

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 17-48 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 17-73 May a village justice acquiesce in a proposed merger of the clerical offices of the village court and the village executive branch?

 

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May 5, 2017 Broadcast

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 16-173 May individual judges and a judicial association publicly advance a position that a Constitutional Convention would present a risk to the security of their pensions, which are currently protected by provisions of the State Constitution?

Opinion 16-176 Digest: 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 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 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?  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 17-12 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 17-13 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 17-32 May a town judge permit his/her court clerks to certify that they will abide by the town ethics code?

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 17-37 Digest: The Committee declines to answer hypothetical questions.

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 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? 

 

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April 12, 2017 Special Broadcast

Opinion 17-38 (1) May a judge participate in a 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? 

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