The Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics recently issued the following opinions, which are linked below.
- Opinions are not in strict numerical order; they are grouped by date of distribution.
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June 9, 2022 Broadcast
Opinion 22-22(A) A full-time judge is prohibited from serving as a member of the board of directors for the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Opinion 22-22(B) A full-time judge, previously employed as an attorney in a not-for-profit labor union's legal services office, and who upon retirement will be eligible for a pension and medical benefits through the union: (1) is permanently disqualified in cases where the judge participated in any way as an attorney, whether in a personal or supervisory capacity; (2) is disqualified for two years, subject to remittal, in cases involving the judge's former clients; but (3) is not otherwise disqualified from cases where a litigant is represented by the union, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 22-23 Where a judge's first-degree relative is an entry-level staff attorney with a not-for-profit legal services provider, in a division or unit that has absolutely no involvement in the kinds of matters that come before the judge's court, the judge may preside in matters involving other attorneys of the same legal services provider. Neither disclosure nor disqualification is required, as long as the judge is satisfied their relative has had, and is likely to have, absolutely no involvement with the case.
Opinion 22-24(A) On the facts presented, a new full-time judge may continue to negotiate with their former law firm regarding the disposition of a limited liability company in which they both own a 50% interest, as long as negotiations are in good faith by both sides and the judge continues to take no active role in management of the building or operation of the business.
Opinion 22-24(B) A full-time judge may serve as president of a local YMCA and serve on its multi-task capital project committee consistent with generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct, but must not personally participate in fund-raising or grant applications or provide legal advice.
Opinion 22-25 A full-time judge may chair the board of directors of a local YMCA. The judge's name and position may be listed together with other board members in similar fashion on the organization's website and fund-raising invitations, unless the formatting reasonably creates an impression for fund-raising purposes that the directors, collectively and/or individually, are personally soliciting funds.
Opinion 22-27 May a judge preside in a matter involving their spouse's former client?
Opinion 22-28 (1) An associate village justice may not simultaneously serve as deputy clerk/treasurer for the village. (2) An associate village justice may serve as (a) deputy clerk/treasurer for the town which encompasses the village, (b) deputy registrar of vital statistics for the village and/or (c) deputy registrar of vital Statistics for the town. (3) A judge may observe court sessions over which other judges preside for educational purposes, whether as part of a formal Unified Court System mentor program or informally, subject to any applicable rule and statute limitations.
Opinion 22-29 A full-time judge may preside over cases involving an insurance company for which the judge had previously served as in-house counsel once two years have elapsed since the end of the relationship or the final payment of any fees to the judge, whichever is later, provided the judge had no involvement in the case before them as counsel.
Opinion 22-30 May a full-time judge serve as a member of the nominating committee of a bar association?
Opinion 22-31 May a part-time attorney judge preside in a small claims matter involving a former client they represented nine years ago in Family Court?
Opinion 22-32 Where the inquiring judge is not certain that the alleged conduct of an attorney violates the Rules of Professional Conduct or concludes that the alleged misconduct is not substantial, the judge need not take further action, although the judge may do so, in the judge’s sole discretion.
Opinion 22-33 On these facts, a judge presiding in a criminal case need not investigate the timing of another judge's prior recusal in the matter nor take any further action.
Opinion 22-34 A judge who receives ex parte correspondence from an inmate claiming that the conviction was obtained through perjured police testimony: (1) may not forward the correspondence to the Conviction Integrity Unit, but may instead treat this correspondence as the judge treats other impermissible ex parte communications; and (2) need not disqualify if an application seeking to vacate the conviction is eventually filed and assigned to the judge.
Opinion 22-35 A part-time judge may not serve as an assistant attorney general handling petitions for civil management of recidivist sex offenders under the Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act.
Opinion 22-36 A full-time judge may remain on the board of directors of a bar foundation, even though two officers of the foundation also serve on the bar association's 29-member judicial rating committee that will be rating the judge as a candidate for re-election.
Opinion 22-37 On these facts, an administrative judge may not authorize a court-sponsored committee or commission to file an amicus curiae brief.
Opinion 22-38 A judicial candidate may permit their spouse to serve on their campaign committee as treasurer or assistant treasurer, provided the candidate concludes their spouse is a responsible person who will abide by applicable law and ethical rules.
Opinion 22-39 (1) A judge-elect who will preside in many cases involving a city may permit the Corporation Counsel to administer their oath of office. (2) A judge's social relationship with the Corporation Counsel does not, without more, require disqualification or disclosure when an assistant corporation counsel or other subordinates appear before the judge.
Opinion 22-40 Where a court's ADR program provides for a free initial session with an approved outside neutral/mediator, optionally followed by privately-paid sessions if desired, the neutral may use courthouse space only for the free initial session.
May 10, 2022 Broadcast
Opinion 22-03 A full-time judge who previously served as a supervising Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and then as the Chief ALJ with the Board of Parole Revocation Bureau (1) must disqualify from the criminal matters of individuals for whom a revocation proceeding was commenced or pending during the judge’s tenure, but (2) may preside over the criminal matters of defendants for whom a revocation proceeding was commenced after the judge’s tenure, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 22-04 Subject to certain limitations, a full-time judge may share with the head of a children’s services agency the judge’s observations of agency operations and procedures used when removing children from their homes.
Opinion 22-05 A part-time judge may serve as an applications systems analyst for the university police of a private, not-for-profit university in another county.
Opinion 22-06 A full-time judge may volunteer as a rescue diver for a county’s water rescue/scuba team, where the dive team members are not county employees and are not concerned with issues of fact or policy. However, the judge’s judicial duties must take precedence over this extra-judicial activity.
Opinion 22-07 A new full-time judge (1) need not file a disclosure with the court clerk under 22 NYCRR 100.4(H) for income earned before assuming the bench; (2) may make a modest donation to an animal shelter on behalf of a former client in connection with the closing of the judge’s law practice; (3) may give another judge an artwork created by a former client.
Opinion 22-09 A part-time judge may also serve as a deputy district executive in the same judicial district, subject to applicable administrative approvals.
Opinion 22-10 Is a judge disqualified from cases filed by a law firm in which their second cousin is a partner?
Opinion 22-11 May a new part-time judge continue to: (1) serve as a notary public after taking the bench; (2) maintain a real estate brokers license; (3) own real estate rental properties, whether individually or with their siblings, and either directly or as a member of an LLC; (4) own an ATM business together with another individual, where the business owns several ATMs placed in local businesses and the judge stocks the ATMs and receives income from the surcharges paid by the customer?
Opinion 22-12 A new town judge, who can no longer represent an existing client on a nearly completed matter that originated in the town court, may agree to pay the successor attorney a portion of the original retainer.
Opinion 22-13 A judge may serve as chair of a bar association subcommittee that seeks to improve racial equity in the Unified Court System.
Opinion 22-14 May a new full-time judge continue to serve as a part-time seasonal lifeguard with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and receive compensation?
Opinion 22-15(A) A new full-time judge may (1) maintain a mailbox at their prior office address; (2) dispose of wills prepared while an attorney, as permitted by law; and (3) be reimbursed for expenses incurred before assuming the bench while handling a matter as an attorney.
Opinion 22-15(B) (1) A judge may not raise funds from friends, neighbors, or acquaintances, but may create an online fund-raising tool if it will be used only to solicit donations from family members. (2) A judge may serve on a bar association committee established to address mandated representation.
Opinion 22-15(C) A full-time judge may not serve on the executive or governing body of their church while there is a pending Child Victims Act claim against the church.
Opinion 22-16 A judge need not disqualify from a custody case merely because the judge’s confidential secretary has connections to both parties through marriage, but must insulate the secretary from any involvement in the matter. If a party objects to the judge’s participation in the case, the judge has the sole discretion to decide whether to exercise recusal.
Opinion 22-17 (1) Where a judge was previously a social services provider to criminal defendant clients: (a) The judge must disqualify if one of those clients appears before the judge on the same case. (b) The judge may preside if the case currently before the judge is unrelated to the underlying case where the judge previously worked as a social service provider to the same client and the judge concludes that the judge can be fair and impartial. (c) But if the judge becomes aware of a material, relevant connection between the case currently before the judge and the underlying case where the judge previously worked as a social services provider to the same client, then the judge must disclose the connection. If the judge then concludes that the judge can be fair and impartial, the judge may preside. (2) If a judge is disqualified in a matter, the disqualification applies to all stages of the case, including the issuance or staying of a bench warrant. (3) A judge who previously served as an institutional criminal defense attorney or as a social services provider to numerous criminal defendants must adopt reasonable procedures to identify such clients. However, the judge need not investigate or take any other action unless the judge actually recognizes a particular individual as a former client, or unless such former client relationship is otherwise brought to the judge’s attention.
Opinion 22-18 May a part-time lawyer judge complete the Part 36 assignments they received as a receiver and referee before assuming the bench, even though they may not accept any new Part 36 assignments?
Opinion 22-19 May a judge provide a testimonial for use in a not-for-profit organization’s marketing materials, including their website, handbook, and social media pages?
Opinion 22-20 May a judge, who previously served as a prosecutor in the court where they now preside (1) sign “post dispositional documents” such as probation transfers, warrants, declaration of delinquencies, Securing Orders/Orders to Produce; and (2) conduct an arraignment of a particular individual in a matter where the judge would ordinarily be disqualified, and then “upon completion of the arraignment immediately disqualify” from the matter?
Opinion 22-21 Whether a judge must or may conduct an inquiry into a potential conflict of interest arising from the pending prosecution of a criminal defense attorney presents a legal question beyond the jurisdiction of this Committee.
April 8, 2022 Broadcast
Opinion 21-179 A full-time judge (1) may serve on the board of a not-for-profit organization that seeks to empower people with disabilities to live as independently as possible and works with criminal justice organizations to improve public safety and the delivery of justice but (2) may not serve on the legislative taskforce of a not-for-profit organization that seeks to develop independent living spaces for individuals with disabilities.
Opinion 21-180 May a judicial association “make a financial donation to a nonprofit organization that local courts often include as a required condition of pretrial or post-conviction decisions,” in the name of a former member who worked closely with the organization on retiring from the judiciary? May a judge personally, as an individual, make charitable contributions to this same nonprofit organization?
Opinion 21-181 A full-time judge may hire a fifth-degree relative as their secretary.
Opinion 21-182 A judge may co-chair a committee to educate the judiciary on implicit bias through a volunteer court observation project, and may meet as a group with other participating judges and committee members to receive feedback from the volunteer observers, but may not meet privately with volunteer observers to discuss their feedback on the judge’s own court sessions.
Opinion 21-183 A village justice may consent to the village’s proposed requirement that the village court clerk punch in on a time clock, as other village employees do.
Opinion 21-184 A town justice (1) must not serve as an animal control officer, even in another municipality, but (2) may serve as a volunteer firefighter or fire police, provided these roles do not involve peace officer or police officer status.
Opinion 21-185 A judge who is a community college trustee may attend a conference solely sponsored by a non-political, not-for-profit organization of college trustees, notwithstanding the conference’s designation as a national legislative summit. However, the judge must not meet with federal legislators in connection with the conference, where such meetings will be seen as lobbying efforts in support of the organization’s legislative agenda.
Opinion 21-188 May a full-time judge serve as a class representative in a federal court action against a multi-national corporation?
Opinion 21-189 A part-time judge may not maintain concurrent civilian employment as a dispatcher with the State University of New York police in the same county where the judge presides.
Opinion 22-01 May a part-time judge offer training and consultation to local city, town, and village governments regarding appropriate responses to “1st and 2nd Amendment audits”?
Opinion 22-02 (1) The Committee cannot address legal/administrative issues relating to the court system’s vaccination policies, such as whether a judge may delay vaccination beyond the deadline after denial of their exemption request and use various categories of leave during the judge’s chosen delay period. (2) Where a judge has been warned that court administrators will deem the judge “unfit for service” if the judge does not comply with the court system’s vaccination policies, the judge may communicate their opposition to this position, provided that such communication comports with the dignity of judicial office and eschews personal attacks on government officials.
March 25, 2022 Broadcast
Opinion 21-166 Although a full-time judge may serve on the board of trustees of a not-for-profit private school, the judge (1) may not serve on the board’s audit/risk committee, (2) may not solicit a legal opinion from an attorney on behalf of the board, and (3) may not negotiate a discounted fee with an attorney or law firm for legal services to the school.
Opinion 21-167 A judge may respond to the county comptroller’s survey concerning the county’s assigned counsel program, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct.
Opinion 21-168 Whether an administrative judge may direct a court attorney-referee to comply with a memorandum from OCA Counsel does not raise any ethical issues, but instead only legal/administrative matters, which are outside the Committee’s jurisdiction.
Opinion 21-169 The Committee does not answer hypothetical or speculative questions.
Opinion 21-170 A judge who completed a mediation skills program at a law school’s mediation clinic may permit the clinic to post the judge’s comments about the course and the judge’s experiences with alternative dispute resolution on its Instagram account for general advertising and recruitment efforts, provided the judge is satisfied the judge’s name, words, and image will not be used for fund-raising.
Opinion 21-171 (1) The Committee does not answer hypothetical or speculative questions. (2) On the facts presented, it is within the inquiring judge’s sole discretion to determine if there is a substantial likelihood that a law firm’s actions constitute a substantial violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and, if so, what action is appropriate.
Opinion 21-172 A new full-time judge who was until recently an assistant public defender: (1) is permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, from all matters in which the judge participated as an attorney, in any capacity, either personally or as a supervisor; (2) is disqualified, subject to remittal, for a period of two years, from any matter involving the judge’s former client; but (3) may otherwise immediately preside over new matters that are filed by the public defender’s office, including those where a defendant is represented by an attorney who was previously supervised by the judge, provided that the judge can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 21-173 A town justice may not accept employment as confidential secretary to the county sheriff, where the court’s calendar includes a substantial number of tickets issued by the sheriff’s deputies.
Opinion 21-174 (1) Provided the judge can be fair and impartial in the underlying criminal case, the judge need not disqualify if the judge or their law clerk cooperate as fact witnesses in a police investigation concerning a bench conference in which an active state trooper was identified solely as defense counsel’s “associate.” (2) The judge also need not insulate the law clerk, provided the judge is satisfied the law clerk can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 21-175 When a village trustee resigns to take office as village justice, is he/she required to disqualify whenever the village attorney appears and/or in all cases involving village laws or ordinances?
Opinion 21-176 Where the court’s chief clerk has filed a criminal complaint against a litigant for making threats against the clerk, whether the judge must recuse from the litigant’s pending matters is a discretionary decision to be guided by the judge’s conscience.
Opinion 21-177 May a judge, at the request of an assistant district attorney who regularly appears before them, write a letter of recommendation in support of the attorney's application for employment as a federal prosecutor?
Opinion 21-178 A town justice may not simultaneously serve as the director of a non-profit civil legal services agency where the judge’s responsibilities include overseeing attorneys and advocates who are likely to appear in the judge’s court in summary eviction proceedings.
February 14, 2022 Broadcast
Opinion 21-138 Where a judge reported to court administrators that a part-time attorney judge inappropriately appeared as a prosecutor, and was advised that the District Administrative Judge has addressed the matter, the judge need not take any further action.
Opinion 21-139 May a village justice provide the village clerk a list of summonses issued for the month, to be presented to a village board of trustees?
Opinion 21-141 A village justice should not permit a local police officer to simultaneously serve in dual roles as the court security officer and as a prosecutor/witness at the same court session.
Opinion 21-142 (1) Judges may attend a conference co-sponsored by a non-political, not-for-profit charitable and educational organization as well as by the New York State Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. (2) As the conference is a fund-raiser, a judicial association may not be the guest of honor but may accept an unadvertised award ancillary to the event. Accordingly, the fact that the judicial association will be honored must not be advertised in advance by the event sponsors; it may be revealed in a program or agenda circulated during the event but must not be mentioned in advance on the invitations or announcements. The judicial association may nonetheless notify its own members that the association will be honored at the conference should they wish to attend. The judicial association must not invite or solicit attendance at the conference beyond its own members.
Opinion 21-143 A part-time attorney judge may not represent a police benevolent association, whether in a non-adjoining town in the same county or in a village in another county, as an appearance of impropriety would be created, based on a perception that the judge is too closely aligned with law enforcement interests.
Opinion 21-145 Where a judge has learned in the course of the judge’s official judicial duties that another court may have the current address information of an individual who has failed to pay outstanding fines, and the judge has made a good-faith legal determination concerning the lawfulness of issuing a new or amended bench warrant for the individual’s arrest for non-payment of outstanding fines using the new address, the judge may contact the other court and request the defendant’s address as information of public record.
Opinion 21-146 An appointed judge whose second-degree relative is presently incarcerated or on parole for a sex offense (1) may preside in other sex offense cases, provided the judge can be fair and impartial, and need not make any disclosure to the parties; (2) need not make any disclosure to the appointing authority; and (3) may be a housing resource for their relative, but may not use the prestige of judicial office to advance the relative’s parole release conditions or other private interests.
Opinion 21-147 A judicial association may publicly condemn the deliberate and unauthorized disclosure of a judge's residential address, as such disclosures may compromise the personal safety and security of judges and/or court personnel and thus affect the administration of justice.
Opinion 21-148 May a part-time city judge simultaneously serve as an assistant county attorney handling child welfare matters?
Opinion 21-149 A judge may allow their court staff to solicit lawyers for voluntary pro bono representation of defendants in consumer debt cases, provided the judge avoids the appearance of coercing attorneys to participate in such representation. Additionally, allowing volunteer attorneys to appear virtually as lawyer for the day is acceptable.
Opinion 21-150 A judge may accept a law firm’s offer of pro bono representation for the purpose of filing a lawsuit to challenge the Unified Court System’s vaccine mandates, where the law firm has not come and is not likely to come before the judge, subject to a reporting requirement if the value of the waived legal fees exceeds $150. The judge, however, may not disseminate a blanket email to all judges asking if any are interested in joining the proposed lawsuit.
Opinion 21-151 (1) A new part-time judge who previously represented clients as a non-supervisory assistant public defender: (a) is permanently disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, in any case where the judge previously participated as an attorney and (b) is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all matters involving their former clients, for two years after the attorney-client relationship completely ends. (2) Once the two-year period has elapsed, the judge may preside in matters involving these former clients, provided the judge had absolutely no involvement as an attorney in the specific case before the judge and assuming the judge can be fair and impartial. (3) If the judge becomes aware that a case before the judge has substantial connections that are material and relevant to a case where the judge had previously served as an assistant public defender, the judge should fully disclose the connection between the two cases, as well as the nature and extent of the judge’s involvement in the prior proceeding, but may thereafter preside if the judge concludes they can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 21-152 A judge may attend a local “Survivors Group,” composed of domestic violence victims, to better understand the difficulties encountered by victims of domestic violence, so long as no member of the group is a victim or witness in a matter currently pending before the judge.
Opinion 21-153 A judge who receives a message from another judge asking them to consider a fine for an acquaintance lower than the fine the prosecutor is recommending must report the other judge to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Opinion 21-154 A full-time judge (1) may hold shares in a family-held limited liability company that owns real estate, and participate in management of the company’s real estate investment, but (2) must not manage, operate, or otherwise actively participate in a family-held bar business that operates on the company’s real estate.
Opinion 21-156 A full-time judge may apply for an appointment as a federal administrative law judge and go through background checks and salary negotiations prior to acceptance of an offer. The judge may continue to serve in the state judiciary post-acceptance until the day before starting work as administrative law judge.
Opinion 21-157 May a judge privately present an award and plaque to a martial arts teacher/practitioner on behalf of a not-for-profit organization, and thereafter permit photographs to be posted publicly on the organization’s website?
Opinion 21-158 May a county magistrates’ association comment on the District Attorney’s proposal to the county legislature to abolish local justice courts in favor of a district court system in the county?
Opinion 21-159 May a judge who is a disabled veteran become a regular member of the not-for-profit charitable entity, Disabled Veterans of America?
Opinion 21-160 May a judge with relevant personal knowledge write a letter supporting a nonjudicial court employee’s request for a promotion?
Opinion 21-161 On the facts presented, a part-time judge may not serve on the board of a reentry services organization that engages in advocacy and takes positions on controversial issues.
Opinion 21-163 A town justice may consent to hiring a part-time court clerk who would, if hired, continue their current employment as a senior account clerk, in a strictly clerical capacity, in the payroll department for the county sheriff’s office. However, the judge must instruct the court clerk to advise the judge if the clerk’s non-judicial employment duties change materially.
Opinion 21-164 Provided the judge is satisfied they can be fair and impartial, the judge may preside in a case where (1) the plaintiff is an attorney who frequently appears before the judge and was previously co-counsel with the judge’s sibling on several discrete cases and (2) plaintiff’s counsel rents office space in the same office as the judge’s sibling and also is an elected county legislator representing the district where the judge resides.
Opinion 21-165 (1) Where court staff have relayed to a judge certain remarks made openly by a physician witness while waiting for the case to be called, and the judge concludes those remarks reflect gender and other bias and a lack of professionalism to a level that could directly impact the doctor’s credibility and/or might be relevant in evaluating the conclusions reached in the physician’s report, the judge (a) may, but need not, report the remarks to an appropriate authority, and (b) must disclose the remarks to all parties so that they may be heard on the matter. (2) Whether the judge may rely on these remarks in a published decision is a legal question on which we cannot comment. (3) The judge may, in their sole discretion, disclose that they sought ethical advice in this matter.
February 7, 2022 Broadcast
Opinion 21-115 A family court judge may not accept an appointment to the Judicial Leadership Council of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem Association for Children nor permit the organization to "promote" the judge on social media and its website.
Opinion 21-116 (1) Where a judge regularly assigns a particular attorney as 18-B counsel or attorney for the child in a large number of cases, if the judge hires that attorney’s life partner as the judge’s personal secretary, the judge (a) must not approve the attorney’s payment vouchers and (b) must not assign or appoint the attorney in future cases while the conflict persists. (2) If these limitations will significantly interfere with the judge’s performance of judicial duties, the judge should not hire the secretary.
Opinion 21-117 A judge may write a book review for a legal textbook and may retain the reviewed book in their personal library.
Opinion 21-118 May a full-time judge serve on a community advisory committee for a religiously affiliated not-for-profit nursing home?
Opinion 21-119 Whether a judge may, in the exercise of discretion, reduce or waive certain Vehicle and Traffic Law surcharges regardless of a defendant's ability to pay is a question of law which this Committee has no authority to address.
Opinion 21-120 A judge's obligation to disqualify in matters involving their former campaign manager terminates two years after the campaign manager relationship has ended. Once the two-year period expires, the judge may preside in matters involving the former campaign manager, provided the judge can be fair and impartial, and disclosure is not required. Opinions 06-54 and 07-26 are overruled or modified to the extent inconsistent with this conclusion.
Opinion 21-121 May a full-time judge write to members of the county legislature to emphasize the urgency of completing certain repairs to the courthouse, to encourage them to proceed promptly, and to suggest using certain federal monies the county has received? If so, may the judge also encourage other local judges to express support for completing these courthouse repairs?
Opinion 21-122 Where an attorney recently provided brief and preliminary legal advice to the judge's law clerk's child, the judge may preside in unrelated matters where the attorney appears without disclosure or insulation of the law clerk.
Opinion 21-123 A full-time court attorney-referee who receives a commission of over $150 for serving as executor of a family member's estate must report it to the clerk of the court as required by Section 100.4(H)(2).
Opinion 21-124 A full-time judge may serve as a "fire officer" or "trustee" for a not-for-profit volunteer fire department, provided the position does not confer peace officer or police officer status, does not involve investigative responsibilities or working with law enforcement, and does not involve the judge with fund-raising.
Opinion 21-125 May a judge whose spouse is the local Conflict Defender preside over matters involving their spouse’s subordinates?
Opinion 21-126 May a part-time village justice accept employment as secretary to the town supervisor of a nearby town?
Opinion 21-127 Provided that the judge's interest in seeking elective nonjudicial office is not announced in advance, a judge need not resign from judicial office before attending a political party's caucus to nominate candidates and allowing eligible party members to vote on whether to nominate the judge for that office. If the judge receives the nomination, the judge must immediately resign from judicial office.
Opinion 21-128 (1) The window period for an individual seeking election to Supreme Court commences nine months before the earlier of (a) the date of formal nomination by convention; or (b) the date of a recognized party-sponsored caucus or committee meeting within the candidate's judicial district held for the purpose of discussing or considering nominations of delegates to the judicial nominating convention, even if a resulting designation or endorsement would be subject to a subsequent contest. (2) If no date for such a meeting has yet been set, the candidate may assume that the previous year's official date will be used again for the upcoming party meeting and then count back nine months from that presumed date.
Opinion 21-129 A full-time judge may serve on an ad hoc interview committee for a public school district for any position that is currently open.
Opinion 21-130 May a judge write a letter in support of a court clerk's request for promotion within the court system, based on personal knowledge?
Opinion 21-131 (1) A judicial candidate may not enter into a contract with a law firm in which the candidate agrees to recuse in certain matters if elected. (2) The inquirer may share this or other ethics opinions with counsel.
Opinion 21-132 (1) A part-time lawyer judge who was assigned as a special prosecutor before assuming the bench, and did not seek to withdraw or be relieved as special prosecutor on assuming the bench, may request and accept permissible legal fees and disbursements for prosecutorial work performed before assuming the bench, but may not accept compensation for prosecutorial work performed after assuming the bench. The judge must take reasonable steps to amend or supplement any previously submitted vouchers as needed and to return any compensation already received for prosecutorial work erroneously performed after assuming judicial office. (2) A part-time lawyer judge may not ordinarily appear before another part-time lawyer judge in the same county, but may do so if that judge is a full-time employee of the Unified Court System and presides in a different court. (3) Where all judges of a court in the same county are part-time lawyer judges, a practicing part-time lawyer judge may not represent a client before any judge of that court and may not ask for a non-attorney judge outside of that court to be assigned to the case. (4) A part-time lawyer judge must prohibit their partners and associates from appearing in the judge’s own court, but need not prohibit their partners and associates from appearing before the part-time lawyer judges of other courts in the same county.
Opinion 21-133 Where a part-time lawyer judge is representing a client on a litigated matter, may the judge respond to media requests for information and comment on that matter?
Opinion 21-134 A village justice may send a mailing to village residents detailing, and limited to, the court's jurisdiction and the types of cases heard in the village court, as it is limited to the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice.
Opinion 21-135 May a judge conduct off-hour arraignments at a county jail, pursuant to a proposed county-wide change in arraignment procedures?
Opinion 21-136 A full-time judge may not serve as an advisory board member of a recovery center and youth clubhouse affiliated with a CASA program, for which the inquiring judge makes referrals as the county-wide substance abuse treatment court.
Opinion 21-137 May a court attorney-referee report a litigant to the DA’s office for perjury?
December 16, 2021 Broadcast
Opinion 21-90 May a town justice, either individually or together with a county magistrates' association, lobby the state legislature for a law which would permit centralized arraignments to be handled via electronic means on a local level?
Opinion 21-92 What is a judge's obligation in matters involving the law firm colleagues of an attorney with whom the judge maintains a "close social relationship" or "close personal relationship" that requires disclosure or disqualification under Opinion 11-125?
Opinion 21-94 May a part-time attorney judge serve as a part-time prosecutor in a neighboring county?
Opinion 21-98 On these facts, a full-time judge need not report the described financial transactions under Section 100.4(H)(2). The judge should consult the Unified Court System's Ethics Commission concerning whether and how to report them under Part 40.
Opinion 21-99 A judge may not monitor police communications on police scanners or police scanner apps for the purpose of learning who has been arrested in the judge's jurisdiction and will likely come before the judge's court, as such activity deliberately and purposefully exposes the judge to ex parte information about pending or impending cases in the judge's court, exclusively from a law enforcement perspective.
Opinion 21-100 The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not preclude two part-time lawyer judges who preside in the same court from representing two potentially adverse parties in a proceeding before a full-time judge in another court.
Opinion 21-101 (1) A town justice whose spouse is the mayor of a village within the town (a) is disqualified, without the possibility of remittal, in matters where the judge's spouse is expected to testify or is a named party, and (b) is disqualified, subject to remittal, in matters where the village is a named party, but (c) need not otherwise recuse from cases where the judge's spouse has no personal involvement, merely because village employees will appear. (2) Where the judge's spouse, as village mayor, serves ex officio on a body of commissioners for the village police department, but is not the head of the department and has no day-to-day administrative, supervisory or law enforcement responsibilities, the judge need not recuse from cases involving the village police department due solely to the judge's spouse's formal status as a police commissioner.
Opinion 21-102 Must a part-time judge resign from both part-time judicial positions they currently hold, on announcing their candidacy for an elective non-judicial position?
Opinion 21-103 May a full-time judge serve on the board of councilors for a not-for-profit private law school in another state?
Opinion 21-104 Where it is legally appropriate to do so, a judge may broadly solicit participation by potential amici curiae by issuing a notice to the bar that will be (a) electronically filed, (b) sent to the New York Law Journal for publication and (c) sent to bar associations and/or committees. Any such notice must be consistent with generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct, including the judge's obligation to maintain public confidence in the judge's impartiality, integrity, and independence.
Opinion 21-105 May a judge accept and decide a "universal motion" from the District Attorney to dismiss certain specified marijuana charges, pursuant to a change in the Penal Law, "in lieu of requiring the submission of a written disposition for every arrest"?
Opinion 21-106 Although it is more efficient for a court clerk to request a "long form information" from an arresting agency to support the issuance of an arrest warrant, this is a prosecutorial task and using the court's staff and database for this purpose is ethically impermissible.
Opinion 21-107 Provided the judge can be fair and impartial, a judge need not disqualify from all cases involving a former opposing counsel, even though the judge had, as an attorney, criticized the opposing counsel's conduct in a letter to the tribunal.
Opinion 21-108 Whether or not a judge may unilaterally substitute the owner/registrant for the operator of an alleged overweight vehicle is a legal question, which is beyond this Committee's jurisdiction. Similarly, whether or not any or all of the interested parties need to request or consent to the substitution is also a legal question beyond the jurisdiction of this Committee.
Opinion 21-109 May a full-time judge serve on the board of directors of a local not-for-profit organization which provides educational programs to children and adults with autism?
Opinion 21-110 Where proceedings involving the town, its highway department, or the highway department's employees are very rare in the town court, a town justice may represent the town in collective bargaining negotiations with the union representing the town's highway department personnel. However, the judge must disqualify in all matters where the town is a party both for the duration of the representation and for two years after it completely ends.
Opinion 21-111 A judge who was previously involved in the implementation of a new county-wide vehicle and traffic law camera enforcement program on behalf of the designated "charging agency" for these alleged violations, but left that employment and assumed judicial office before the agency commenced prosecuting these matters, need not disqualify when accusatory instruments from this program come before the judge.
Opinion 21-112 A part-time town justice may serve as "Judge Advocate" for the American Legion.
Opinion 21-114(A) A judge may disclose the judge’s own preferred gender pronouns in the judge’s email signature block and during a virtual proceeding in which the judge presides.
Opinion 21-114(B) A full-time judge may attend a law firm’s online “launch party” hosted by an attorney and law firm who do not appear before the judge.
August 6, 2021 Broadcast
Opinion 21-77 May a village justice also serve as Assigned Counsel Administrator in the same county?
Opinion 21-78 (1) Where an attorney persists in sending emails to the court and opposing counsel concerning a case, despite a court order disqualifying the attorney from the representation due to an ethical conflict under the Rules of Professional Conduct, the judge must take appropriate action. (2)(a) If, on considering all relevant circumstances, the judge determines that the misconduct seriously calls into question the attorney’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer, the appropriate action is to report the attorney to the disciplinary committee. (b) Conversely, if the judge determines the misconduct does not reach that level of egregiousness, the judge has discretion to take less severe appropriate measures which may include, but are not limited to, counseling or warning the lawyer, reporting the lawyer to their employer, or sanctioning the lawyer.
Opinion 21-79 May a judge serve on the board of a not-for-profit educational organization with a primary focus on educating first responders, parents and teachers on how to interact with individuals on the Autism Spectrum and/or their care givers in crisis situations?
Opinion 21-80 A part-time judge who is the secretary/treasurer of a not-for-profit volunteer fire company may also serve as the organization’s point of contact to provide factual and financial information for its Federal Emergency Management Agency grant application.
Opinion 21-81 A judge who belongs to a judicial association (1) may participate in a vote on a resolution not to hold the association’s conferences in certain locations, based on local laws affecting individuals with particular sexual orientations, gender identity, or gender expression; (2) need not resign from the association merely because the resolution passes; and (3) may serve on a prison committee for the association’s local chapter, which provides support and assistance to women in prison as they prepare for their transition back into the community.
Opinion 21-82 (1) A judge who is being represented in an Article 78 proceeding in the judge’s official capacity by private counsel under Public Officers Law § 17(2)(b) is disqualified, subject to remittal, in any matters involving the specific attorneys who are representing the judge for the duration of the representation. The judge is not disqualified when other partners or associates of the law firm appear, provided they have no involvement in representing the judge, but must make disclosure while the representation is ongoing. (2) Once the Article 78 proceeding terminates and the representation ends, the judge need not disclose or disqualify in matters involving the law firm and/or the specific attorneys involved in the representation, assuming the judge can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 21-83 On these facts, a town justice in a town encompassing a village with its own court may not allow the town court clerk to simultaneously serve as clerk to the village police, where (a) the two courts share the same justices and courtroom and (b) the clerical staffs share the same telephone and service window, interact throughout the work day, and cover for each other.
Opinion 21-84 A part-time lawyer judge may serve as a non-partisan hearing officer for the state board of elections to conduct civil enforcement hearings.
Opinion 21-85 Among other requirements, remittal of a judge's disqualification requires on-the-record, individual and specific consent by all parties that have appeared and not defaulted. Where the purpose of the proceeding is to determine if a party has the capacity to make decisions on their own behalf, a judge who has a remittable conflict must disqualify without offering an opportunity for remittal unless the judge determines that the attorney has the legal standing to consent to remittal on behalf of the alleged incapacitated party.
Opinion 21-86 (1) A judge who reported a government attorney to the grievance committee must disqualify in all cases involving that attorney while the disciplinary matter is pending and for two years thereafter. (2) What the judge must state on the record or in writing pursuant to Judiciary Law § 9, when confidentiality has not been waived, is a legal question we cannot resolve. (3) If the judge believes the attorney's appearance on a case that had previously been handled by another colleague in the same governmental law office constitutes impermissible judge-shopping, the judge may report this conduct to the grievance committee.
Opinion 21-87 May a full-time judge prepare an uncontested divorce package for a former client for whom the judge had previously prepared a separation agreement while in private practice?
Opinion 21-88 May a part-time attorney judge (1) raise funds for a not-for-profit charitable or civic organization by selling raffle tickets to their family and (2) represent the organization pro bono?
Opinion 21-89 A judge may complete a survey from the local social services agency concerning the number of eviction petitions, proceedings and warrants filed or pending in the judge's court, so that the agency can assess the likely impacts of lifting a moratorium on evictions, but such participation is voluntary and entirely in the judge's discretion.
Opinion 21-91 May a judge contact their legislators in order to ascertain what steps are necessary to initiate legislation in order to create an additional judgeship in the judge’s court to handle the increased caseload and enlist their support in obtaining such legislation?
Opinion 21-93 May a town justice allow the town’s Chief Constable to provide court security in the town court and to prosecute town ordinance violations “while also acting as a Court Officer”?
Opinion 21-95 May a judge attend, as a guest of the judge’s prosecutor spouse, the purely social aspects of a multi-day annual prosecutors’ conference, located in another part of the state?
Opinion 21-96 May a full-time judge provide, at the request of a lawyer representing the estate of a former client the judge knew professionally for many years, a “family tree affidavit” to be submitted in Surrogate's Court?
Opinion 21-97 We decline to comment on the appropriate scope of disclosure of a recusing judge under Judiciary Law § 9, as this is a legal question beyond our jurisdiction.
June 22, 2021 Broadcast
Opinion 21-55 May a part-time judge serve on a committee to investigate sexual harassment claims against an individual who is a member of the same worldwide not-for-profit service organization?
Opinion 21-56 (1) This Committee, unlike an individual judge, cannot determine the constitutionality of the enabling statute for a school bus stop-arm violation monitoring program nor whether any resulting guidelines, requirements, directives, forms, notifications or advisements emanating from that statute are lawful and thus ethically permissible. (2) A judge must comply with legal mandates. Absent a legal requirement to do so, a judge should not voluntarily comply with guidelines that are not directly enabled by the law, to the extent that they require a judge to engage in ethically impermissible conduct.
Opinion 21-57 May a judge accept an invitation to speak as a guest lecturer for a criminal justice course offered through the Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES)?
Opinion 21-59(A) A judge may speak at a victim impact panel in a jurisdiction other than that where the judge presides, but when the program is conducted online as a remote or virtual program, the judge must (1) advise the agency that the judge’s presentation is solely for program participants and must not be made available to a broader audience and (2) direct the agency to prohibit recording or distribution of the judge’s presentation by attendees.
Opinion 21-59(B) Provided the judge can be fair and impartial, a judge who was publicly censured by the Commission on Judicial Conduct more than two years ago may preside in matters involving individuals who had testified on the judge’s behalf in the disciplinary proceeding. Disclosure is left to the judge’s discretion.
Opinion 21-60 A part-time lawyer judge may serve as an assistant public defender in another county, but must not preside in any matter where another attorney from the same public defender’s office appears.
Opinion 21-61 A full-time judge (1) may contribute case vignettes and legal commentary to a for-profit casebook on mental capacity, provided the vignettes do not disclose parties' names and the commentary is consistent with the public comment rule and other limitations, but (2) may not recommend others to contribute to the casebook.
Opinion 21-62 A full-time judge may not offer their services to a congressperson to help establish, and thereafter serve on, a non-partisan service academy review board, which will (a) review the applications of those seeking the congressperson’s nomination to one of the service academies, and (b) make recommendations to the congressperson as to who should receive a nomination and in what order.
Opinion 21-63 Where a town justice serves as village attorney for a village which is wholly encompassed within the town where the justice presides, and the village retains a completely independent special prosecutor to handle all village court matters, the vast majority of which involve parking violations, the town justice may continue to serve as village attorney after the village court is abolished. However, the town justice may not preside in cases where the village is a party; if this results in frequent disqualifications, the justice must choose between the positions of town justice and village attorney.
Opinion 21-64 A sitting judge may reach out to individuals in the judge’s community who may have appropriate contacts, so that the judge may use those contacts to reveal, discuss and explore the judge’s qualifications and interest in appointive judicial office with the appointing authority, political party leaders, and relevant elected officials. However, the judge may not compensate such individuals for their time or assistance with the appointment process.
Opinion 21-65 A judge may not accept a social media company’s invitation to address its employees in-house about how legal process is authorized, the use and purpose of the company’s records in legal proceedings, and the importance of accuracy and vigilance in response to legal process.
Opinion 21-67 May a full-time justice participate, without compensation, in a commercially produced documentary comparing various judicial systems around the world?
Opinion 21-68 A judge in a large urban court may write a letter of reference for a sheriff’s deputy supervisor seeking to be promoted, based on the judge’s personal knowledge of the deputy, where the deputy supervises others who provide court security and is thus unlikely to appear before the judge.
Opinion 21-70 A full-time judge may accept an appointment to serve on the search committee for the dean of a law school that is financially supported primarily by New York State or one of its political subdivisions, even if the prior dean’s tenure or departure was controversial.
Opinion 21-71 A full-time judge may author a chapter of a book concerned with the creation of lasting reforms in the area of child welfare in the public and not-for-profit sectors.
Opinion 21-72 A town justice may preside in a matter involving an attorney from the law office which filed an Article 78 proceeding against the town and the town court clerk, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 21-73 A judge may not organize a virtual fashion show for judges which will (a) showcase the merchandise of a single producer of judicial robes or jewelry, (b) include a display by a single artist who creates and sells themed jewelry, or (c) display jewelry from judges’ personal collections accompanied by information about where the items were or can be purchased.
Opinion 21-74 Absent a legal requirement to do so, a town justice must not sign an acknowledgment form attached to the town’s sexual harassment policy, where (a) the acknowledgment contains an indirect pledge by the judge to be bound by the policy’s terms, (b) the town’s policy sets forth local procedures and reporting requirements and purports to subject all town managers, supervisors and employees to local discipline, and (c) the Unified Court System has adopted a sexual harassment policy applicable to “all judges,” which conflicts with the town’s policy.
Opinion 21-75 A judge may speak at a bar association’s fund-raising event and introduce a video concerning a particular bar association initiative, even though others will solicit funds for that specific initiative in the course of the evening, provided that the judge does not personally solicit funds.
Opinion 21-76 Where a part-time town justice’s law firm has a referral relationship with an attorney, the judge is disqualified from all cases in which that attorney appears for two years from the date their business relationship is completely terminated. However, the disqualification is subject to remittal after full disclosure, even if a party is proceeding without counsel.
June 9, 2021 Broadcast
Opinion 21-23 During the pendency of a proceeding brought by the judge on behalf of the judge’s minor child, the judge is disqualified (subject to remittal) from matters involving the adverse party or parties, and their counsel. Once the proceeding terminates, disclosure is required in lieu of outright disqualification for a period of two years for those same parties and attorneys. NOTE: Modified by Opinion 21-22(A), which abolishes the "pro se remittal" rule, and by Opinion 21-41, which partially overrules points 2 and 3 of the digest.
Opinion 21-30 Provided a judicial candidate determines they will receive fair value for the expenditure, the candidate may permit their campaign committee to purchase subscriptions during the window period to a web-based service that (1) provides information on potential donors for use by the candidate's campaign committee for a flat monthly fee and/or (2) allows the judge's campaign committee to communicate live with voters by telephone or text for a flat per-call fee.
Opinion 21-32 A judge need not disqualify from matters involving an attorney acquaintance, merely because the attorney is the child of the judge’s spouse’s deceased former spouse, where the judge’s spouse and the attorney treat each other as acquaintances rather than family.
Opinion 21-33 May a new judge request that the county court judge transfer all of their cases, which were pending in the court to which they were recently appointed as a part-time judge, to different jurisdictions?
Opinion 21-34 (1) A judge may solicit other judges to join, or renew their memberships in, a local bar association, but may not similarly solicit attorneys or other non-judges. (2) A full-time judge may not serve on the board of directors of a not-for-profit senior housing development that is likely to regularly engage in adversarial litigation in any court.
Opinion 21-35 A judge may attend a sporting event or concert in a luxury box as a guest of the judge’s spouse, where use of the luxury box seats is a benefit incident to the spouse’s employment as officer of a company that is unlikely to come before the judge, and could not reasonably be perceived as intended to influence the judge in the performance of judicial duties.
Opinion 21-36 A judge who purchased and used wooden frames for lawn signs in a now-concluded judicial campaign: (1) may not lend or donate the frames for use in another candidate’s campaign but (2) may use the frames in the judge’s own future campaign(s) for judicial office.
Opinion 21-38 May a full-time judge serve on a municipal community board?
Opinion 21-39 What are a judge’s obligations if their law clerk’s second-degree relative obtains employment with a local law firm as an attorney?
Opinion 21-40 Subject to generally applicable limitations on campaign speech and conduct, a judicial candidate may permit their campaign committee to establish a Twitter account for campaign purposes and use it to “follow” the judge’s election opponent and/or other candidates on Twitter during the window period.
Opinion 21-41 A judge, whose spouse had brought a now-settled personal injury action on behalf of their minor child against a city municipality and its education agency must make full disclosure in cases where the municipality or any of its agencies is a party for two years from the date the court signs the settlement order. However, the judge need not disclose in mental hygiene hearings where a city hospital is represented exclusively by outside counsel.
Opinion 21-42 May a judge permit their court attorney, a former assistant district attorney, to work on certain criminal cases that originated in the District Attorney’s office during the court attorney's tenure? In one instance, the court attorney made a single appearance in the case, while in the other, the court attorney had absolutely no involvement.
Opinion 21-43 May a judge sit on the board of a local human rights commission, which is involved in investigating, conciliating, and adjudicating employment, housing, public accommodation and credit discrimination claims?
Opinion 21-45 (1) Whether a judge who has reported an attorney to an attorney grievance committee may publicly disclose the reason for recusal, when confidentiality has not been waived, is a legal question we cannot resolve. (2) The judge may communicate privately with the reported attorney to advise them that a disciplinary complaint has been filed.
Opinion 21-46 A judge may accept or reject plea dispositions but, in doing so, may not adopt a broad policy that omits individualized determinations.
Opinion 21-47 A full-time judge may serve as president of a not-for-profit organization that supports a branch of the United States military through education, community outreach, and youth programs and by providing programs and services for certain military personnel and their families.
Opinion 21-48 (1) Where a judge’s spouse ceased employment with a law firm approximately five years ago and has subsequently appeared as opposing counsel to the spouse’s former law partner, the judge need not disqualify in unrelated proceedings involving the spouse’s former law partner or law firm, notwithstanding the partner’s threats to file a grievance or lawsuit against the judge’s spouse, unless and until (a) the grievance committee commences formal disciplinary proceedings against the judge’s spouse based on the partner’s complaint and/or (b) a formal adversarial legal proceeding is commenced concerning the dissolution of the financial or business relationship. (2) Where an attorney alleges in a recusal motion that the judge and the attorney previously had a close social relationship which subsequently deteriorated into an adversarial relationship, the judge should fully disclose the nature and extent of that relationship so that a determination can be made whether recusal is required under such circumstances.
Opinion 21-49 Whether a judge may order the disqualification of an attorney because of an ethical conflict, instead of deciding a pending motion filed by the attorney on behalf of the attorney’s client, is a question of law which this Committee therefore has no authority to address.
Opinion 21-50 A judge who authorizes or knowingly permits their name to appear on a publicly circulated nominating petition as a candidate for nonjudicial office is a "candidate" under the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct and thus must resign from judicial office. If the judge does not wish their name to appear on the nominating petitions, the judge must object in writing to the appropriate political party leaders.
Opinion 21-51 A full-time judge may accept a grant from a not-for-profit arts services organization and use it, to the extent legally permissible, to rent space for and/or provide honoraria to poets, in order to provide free poetry readings to the community.
Opinion 21-52 May a full-time judge, who is also a poet by avocation, share their poetry at free online creative arts panels, organized by non-commercial entities, and accept an honorarium from them?
Opinion 21-53 A full-time judge may volunteer as an editor for a not-for-profit poetry journal.
Opinion 21-54 The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct cannot comment on whether Part 8 of the Rules of the Chief Judge precludes a county jury board from appointing or reappointing a jury commissioner whose spouse has assumed full-time judicial office within the same county.
May 6, 2021 Broadcast
Opinion 20-200 On these facts, a full-time judge may not participate in a proposed not-for-profit corporation that would be exclusively controlled by the judge’s family and would feature the judge as its sole compensated lecturer with a sliding scale of fees.
Opinion 20-208 Where a publicly traded company’s sole purpose is the sale of medicinal and recreational marijuana and other cannabis-related products, a judge may not invest in the company if it is operating in the United States in violation of federal law.
Opinion 21-10 The Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics cannot comment on past conduct.
Opinion 21-13 A new full-time judge may engage in activities designed to wind down their prior law practice and collect previously earned legal fees, including billing an assigned counsel program for services “as an attorney” and complying with the requirements of a state administrative agency to obtain payment on previously awarded legal fees.
Opinion 21-14 Where the judge’s spouse’s law firm has no involvement whatsoever in the case before the judge and will not share in the legal fees, the judge is not disqualified merely because the judge is aware that one of the litigants is also a current or former client of the judge’s spouse’s law firm in other matters. The judge may, in their discretion, disclose the relationship without incurring any obligation to disqualify.
Opinion 21-15 (1) A judge whose first-degree relative heads a law enforcement agency must disqualify from all matters involving the agency, including matters where the judge concludes the agency or its personnel have been or will likely be involved. Remittal is not permitted. (2) While the judge need not undertake an active inquiry or other extraordinary measures in every criminal matter, the judge must adopt reasonable procedures to avoid presiding over matters involving the agency, such as making reasonable inquiry if the judge suspects the agency was or may become involved in a particular matter.
Opinion 21-16(A) Where a judge’s law clerk previously served as law clerk to a recently retired judge, and that ex-judge is now employed as an attorney in a government law office: (1) if the ex-judge does not appear, the judge may preside and need not insulate the law clerk or disclose the prior employment in matters involving that government law office; (2) for two years, if the ex-judge appears, the judge may not preside unless the judge insulates the law clerk and discloses the prior employment relationship.
Opinion 21-16(B) (1) A judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving an attorney who joined a highly publicized and controversial lawsuit challenging certain employment actions taken by the judge’s close relative. (2) The judge may preside in matters involving the attorney’s new colleagues at an unrelated government law office, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. NOTE: Modified by Opinion 21-22(A), which abolishes the "pro se remittal" rule.
Opinion 21-17 Where a new full-time judge was previously a law firm partner and took a loan from the firm’s 401(k) profit sharing plan, the judge may remain in the plan temporarily in order to pay back the loan and receive the plan’s annual employer matching contribution based on the judge’s prior legal work and earnings. The judge must continue to disqualify from matters involving the former firm and the judge’s former partners and associates during this period and for two years after the financial relationship completely terminates. NOTE: Modified by Opinion 21-22(A), which abolishes the "pro se remittal" rule.
Opinion 21-18 Once the judge’s law clerk’s first-degree relative retires and terminates their prior business and financial relationship with a law firm, the judge need not insulate the law clerk from new matters involving that law firm, even if the law firm continues to list the name of the retired attorney on its letterhead and website along with the dates of the retired attorney’s service with the firm.
Opinion 21-19 A judge with knowledge that another judge with a public disciplinary history took steps to have an acquaintance’s matter reassigned to him/herself must report the other judge to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Opinion 21-20 A judge may preside in a criminal case that arose during the judge’s tenure at the District Attorney’s office, where the matter was handled exclusively and personally by the District Attorney and the judge had no involvement with the file whatsoever.
Opinion 21-21 While a judge’s law clerk is being represented by a law firm, the judge must insulate the law clerk from all matters involving that law firm and disclose the law clerk’s conflict and insulation when that law firm or any of its attorneys appear. After disclosure, the judge may preside if the judge is satisfied that they can be fair and impartial, even if a party objects.
Opinion 21-22(B) (1) Where a full-time judge solely owns certain rental properties through a solely owned limited liability company, the judge: (a) may advertise those properties via social media or other lawful means, provided such advertisements do not mention the judge’s judicial status; (b) need not prohibit current tenants from forwarding or sharing such advertisements; (c) may, to the extent permitted by law, enter into a business arrangement providing a current tenant with a rent credit for referring new tenants, again assuming the judge’s judicial status will not be referenced; (d) is disqualified, subject to remittal, from presiding over matters involving current tenants; and (e) may not appoint or re-appoint current tenants to positions such as assigned counsel or attorney for the child. (2) If the judge’s relationship with an attorney tenant results in frequent disqualifications, the judge must either terminate the landlord/tenant relationship or divest the investment.
Opinion 21-24 On these facts, a judge may not participate in an interview with a local news station regarding the experiences of the judge’s first-degree relative at a local nursing home.
Opinion 21-25 A full-time judge may assist a bar association with its application for recognition of 501(c)(3) tax exemption status by providing guidance on the narrative description of the bar association’s activities on IRS Form 1023, provided the application is filed by the association’s attorney.
Opinion 21-26 (1) Where a town justice and town court clerk hold ethically permissible second positions within the town government, they may attend and participate in monthly town board meetings in their non-judicial/non-court capacities and be listed on the agenda in those capacities. (2) A town justice may appear at monthly town board meetings on behalf of the town court if (a) the judge concludes it is in the best interest of the court to attend and (b) the judge is satisfied the agenda reflects the town court’s status as a co-equal branch of government, rather than a department subject to the town board’s direction and control. (3) A town justice may provide a monthly cashbook and statute summary report to the town board.
Opinion 21-27 May a family court judge hear a custody/visitation case involving the same family in which the judge had previously served as attorney for the child 12 years ago?
Opinion 21-29 A full-time judge who worked for an insurance company more than a decade ago and has a pension benefit associated with that company is disqualified when that former employer appears as an insurer of a party in a lawsuit pending before the judge. However, the disqualification is subject to remittal.
Opinion 21-31 A judge may not provide a biographical video for use in a not-for-profit organization’s social media campaign, where the required release and the overall context create an impression that the judge’s video will be used to promote the organization and its gala fund-raising event.
April 15, 2021 Broadcast
Opinion 20-190 (1) A judge who objected orally and in writing to the appearance of their name in an email soliciting funds for a charitable cause need not take any further action. (2) A judge may contribute their personal funds, either alone or with a co-judge, to sponsor a family in need, and may be identified by name and title in doing so. However, the judge may not make charitable contributions in the name of the court or permit their court staff to do so.
Opinion 20-196 A town justice may respond to an inquiry from the town board and/or town supervisor concerning the performance of a town employee who has appeared before the judge for several years. The judge may comment on matters within the judge’s personal knowledge and observation, which may include their opinion about the employee’s ability to apply the law, knowledge of the law, and overall quality of work.
Opinion 20-198 A town justice may suggest that the town board amend the local leash law to include an additional, alternative sanction for violations of the ordinance, that would allow the court to order defendant dog owners to confine their repeat offender dogs in a manner that will prevent future violations.
Opinion 20-204 On assuming full-time judicial office, must a new judge have their name removed from the glass of the shared suite in which they previously practiced law? Must they relinquish the office of notary public? May they collect a legal fee on a matter that is being handled by another attorney, where any legal fees are contingency-based and the judge is “expecting a fee once a settlement is reached”?
Opinion 20-207 Where a judge has already determined that it is necessary to report another judge for an apparent incident of “ticket-fixing,” the judge is not relieved of the duty to report merely because the other judge resigned from the bench in the interim.
Opinion 20-209 A full-time judge may not be a member of a bar association task force organized to monitor and discuss fiscal and human rights issues faced by residents of a United States territory.
Opinion 20-210 Where a law firm’s managing partner is the sibling of a New York State judge, a Surrogate’s Court judge in a county specified in Section 36.1(a)(11) may not appoint any attorney of the law firm to serve as the Public Administrator, nor may the Surrogate appoint the law firm as counsel to the Public Administrator. The Surrogate may nonetheless appoint eligible members of the law firm who are on the Part 36 list to serve in other fiduciary positions except as Public Administrator and counsel to the Public Administrator.
Opinion 20-211 Where a judge’s spouse supervises assistant county attorneys in family court neglect and abuse cases, and a criminal case before the judge has material and relevant connections to a family court neglect and abuse case: (a) if the judge’s spouse is either directly involved or supervising assistant county attorneys in the “related” case, the judge must disclose the connection and their spouse’s role, but need not disqualify unless a party is appearing without counsel; and (b) if the judge is satisfied that their spouse has no supervisory or direct involvement in the “related” family court case, the judge may preside without disclosure. NOTE: Modified by Opinion 21-22(A), which abolishes the "pro se remittal" rule.
Opinion 20-212 A full-time judge may not serve on the advisory board of the Center for Court Innovation, given that the Center regularly provides program alternatives to detention and incarceration for criminal defendants.
Opinion 20-213 A judge with personal knowledge that an attorney knowingly assisted a client in effectuating a transfer of disputed real estate under false pretenses must report the misconduct to the appropriate grievance committee. Reporting may await the conclusion of proceedings. After making the report, the judge is disqualified in all matters involving the attorney, both while the disciplinary matter is pending and for two years thereafter.
Opinion 20-214 A part-time judge who is an ordained minister, and who is legally permitted to solemnize marriages in that capacity, may establish a for-profit business to solemnize marriages as an ordained minister and advertise such business, provided there is no use, mention or connection to the judge's judicial status.
Opinion 20-215 A full-time judge may participate, without compensation, as an interviewee and consultant for a commercially-produced documentary concerning a case the judge prosecuted several decades ago, provided the case has completely terminated and no related proceedings are pending or impending.
Opinion 21-01 A town justice, who serves as village attorney for a village which is wholly encompassed within the town where the justice presides, may not continue as town justice and village attorney where the town court would be expected to hear all cases arising out of the village, including actions to enforce village zoning, parking and other local laws. The justice may not recuse from all village cases in order to retain both positions.
Opinion 21-02 A judge who believes that the statutory obligation to provide a reason for discretionary recusal is unconstitutional may act in accordance with a legal determination made by the judge on the record, but may not conceal the true basis of the judge’s ruling.
Opinion 21-04 A judge has no ethical obligation to vacate their decision in a criminal case, merely because the defendant was the judge’s student several decades ago and they remain friendly acquaintances.
Opinion 21-05 A judge must not preside in a criminal case that has been transferred to drug treatment court where the judge entered a single appearance as the prosecutor in the underlying criminal case.
Opinion 21-06 May a judge preside in matters involving an attorney who is the sibling of the judge’s close personal friend, where that attorney is merely an “acquaintance” under Opinion 11-125?
Opinion 21-07 The judge, a former assistant district attorney, may not preside in: (1) a criminal case in which the judge had some minimal prior involvement as an attorney; or (2) a criminal case in which a prior conviction, which the judge prosecuted approximately a decade ago, is an element of the felony offense.
Opinion 21-09 Where a party or attorney has advised the court that their preferred gender pronoun is “they,” a judge may not require them to instead use “he” or “she.”
Opinion 21-11 A full-time judge may volunteer as a participant in a COVID-19 study conducted by a hospital and may accept the same modest per-visit compensation as other participants.
March 24, 2021 Special Broadcast - Important Opinion on RemittalOpinion 21-22(A) Remittal of disqualification is a three-step process requiring full disclosure on the record of the basis for disqualification and the voluntary affirmative consent of the parties and their counsel. However, we no longer prohibit remittal of disqualification merely because a party is unrepresented. We hereby modify our prior opinions to abolish that requirement.
Researching and Retrieving Other Committee Opinions
Formal and Informal Ethics Inquiries
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