The Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics recently issued the following opinions, which are linked below.
- Opinions are not in strict numerical order; they are collected in groups.
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- For opinions grouped by subject matter, visit Subject Matter Index. (Coverage starts in 2015.)
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November 9, 2023 Broadcast
Opinion 23-87 Where a court attorney-referee initially declines to consider an ex parte application from an attorney asking the referee to issue an order nunc pro tunc to rectify the attorney’s failure to timely file documents, and then denies the same application when made by motion on notice to all parties, the referee need not take any action unless the referee determines that the attorney’s actions constitute a “substantial violation” of the Rules of Professional Conduct. If so, the referee also has full discretion to determine what action is “appropriate” under the circumstances.
Opinion 23-88 (1) A full-time judge who is, along with their siblings, a beneficiary of their parent’s estate may (a) assist the sibling who is serving as executor in selecting an attorney for the estate; (b) review documents relating to the estate and the probate proceedings; (c) discuss the estate and the proceedings with the other sibling beneficiaries; and (d) provide free legal advice to their siblings, including the executor, regarding the estate and the proceedings. However, the judge may not represent their siblings or the estate, nor participate in meetings with estate counsel. (2) Where the judge, as beneficiary, has a direct personal interest in the estate proceeding, the judge must disqualify in all matters involving the attorney for the estate, both during the representation and for a period of two years from its termination.
Opinion 23-89 A judge is not disqualified from presiding in a wrongful death and civil rights action arising out of an incident in a county facility, merely because the underlying events occurred while the judge was a county legislator who voted on the county budget. Under the circumstances, disclosure is entirely discretionary.
Opinion 23-90 Must a part-time attorney judge disqualify in matters involving a prosecutor whose spouse is a partner in the judge’s own law firm?
Opinion 23-91 A full-time judge may (1) serve as treasurer of their local American Legion post and (2) participate in a regional American Legion service committee which strives to help women veterans, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct.
Opinion 23-92 A city court judge whose caseload may include criminal matters may attend meetings of local not-for-profit neighborhood/community groups as a guest speaker. At such meetings, the judge (1) should not speak about the root causes of violence and potential solutions through the lens of the judge’s past and current professional experiences but (2) may otherwise discuss a variety of legal topics, including court procedures, the judge’s professional career and judicial role, and governing law, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct.
Opinion 23-93 A full-time judge may serve as a non-legal advisor on a stakeholders committee to advise the county on an assigned counsel program that will provide legal assistance to eligible litigants, where the program will not appear in litigation but instead will contract with private attorneys to undertake representation.
Opinion 23-94 Whether a judge may ask a defendant questions about court-ordered treatment when the defendant appears before the judge for a status review is a legal issue beyond our jurisdiction. It is, however, ethically permissible for the judge to ask legally permissible questions.
Opinion 23-95 A judge (1) is disqualified, subject to remittal, in all cases in which a party is represented by an attorney from the small law firm that represents the judge’s family’s real estate business and (2) may not appoint an attorney from that firm as a guardian ad litem.
Opinion 23-96 A judge must insulate their law clerk from all matters in which the law clerk had any personal involvement as an attorney, but need not disqualify, provided the judge believes the judge can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 23-97 Must a part-time town justice, who is also a full-time law clerk to a county court judge in the same county, be insulated in county court from all cases that he/she arraigned in the centralized arraignment part?
Opinion 23-98 May a judicial association honor an elected official at a non-fund-raising event for their role in increasing diversity in the judiciary, provided the event is not political?
Opinion 23-99 On these facts, as candidates for a non-judicial office have made the judge’s ethical obligations an issue in their election campaign and any attempt by the judge to correct the record will be readily perceived as partisan political activity, the judge must abstain from direct or indirect public comment on the situation.
Opinion 23-100 May a full-time judge invest in a cannabis company which has an active state license to operate a retail dispensary in New York? May the judge’s spouse and other relatives, who are neither judges nor employees of the Unified Court System, invest in, consult for, or be employed by a cannabis company?
Opinion 23-101 May a full-time judge (1) help distribute previously donated books for free to the public at community events, provided the judge does not personally participate in any book drives or other solicitations; and (2) volunteer to read the judge’s own published books to children at a not-for profit “mobile bookstore”?
Opinion 23-102 Where a not-for-profit entity engages in some activities clearly permissible for judges as well as some potentially controversial lobbying, advocacy and litigation activities, a judge may not participate in a voter registration drive organized by that entity.
Opinion 23-103 (1) A town justice may not grant permission to the town court clerks to use the town court’s courtroom to film for-profit training videos. (2) Whether some other person or entity may grant such permission raises legal and administrative questions we cannot answer.
October 6, 2023 Broadcast
Opinion 23-64 A full-time judge may not participate in a local bar association's phone bank event where members of the public call in with legal questions.
Opinion 23-65 May a part-time judge who is also employed with a school district be a member of the Classified Employees Association and United Teachers unions, given that these unions are active in politics?
Opinion 23-66 A part-time judge may serve as administrator of the assigned counsel program in a different county from the county where the judge presides.
Opinion 23-67 A part-time town justice may not serve as counsel to the town planning board in the town where the judge sits.
Opinion 23-68 A part-time judge may serve on a public hospital board, notwithstanding the board's statutorily delineated inspection, investigative, and reporting functions.
Opinion 23-69 A judge who is a candidate for election or re-election may publicly identify themselves as “pro choice” or “pro life” during the applicable window period, provided the judge also makes clear that they will decide all cases fairly and impartially and in accordance with governing law.
Opinion 23-70 On these facts, the judge is not required to disqualify from a contentious criminal case, notwithstanding the defense counsel’s claims of bias, provided the judge determines they can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 23-71 A support magistrate who previously served as the supervising attorney at the Department of Social Services may handle child support cases filed after the magistrate’s departure from the agency, provided there is no substantial connection between the circumstances underlying the prior proceeding and the facts and legal issues presently before the magistrate. If such connection exists, disclosure or disqualification is required.
Opinion 23-72 (1) Where the judge’s former law student intern has been hired by a local law firm as a summer associate, and that firm is now appearing before the judge on a case the former intern worked on during the internship, but has notified all parties that the former intern will be insulated from the case, the judge may preside in the case after making full disclosure of the relationship to all parties on the record. (2) The judge is not prohibited from speaking to the former intern on non-work matters during the pendency of the case.
Opinion 23-73 May a judge serve as the secretary-treasurer of a not-for-profit organization which owns and operates a cemetery for the descendants of Jewish immigrants? The position oversees investments, maintains a checking account, sends out meeting notices with the annual dues notice, and deposits all funds received. The organization does no fund-raising.
Opinion 23-74 Provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial, the judge need not disqualify from a case merely because (a) the complainant is a long-time professional acquaintance of the judge and (b) the defendant has attempted to contact the judge ex parte, accused the judge of corruption and bigotry, threatened the judge’s career, and implicitly threatened the judge’s family. However, the judge should disclose on the record the substance of any threats of violence by the defendant that were received ex parte.
An elected judge may make a charitable donation by check payable to a not-for-profit charitable organization in memory of the deceased relative of a district leader of a local political party, but may not send the contribution to the district leader for collection. Opinion 23-75
Opinion 23-76 A judge need not insulate their law clerk from a custody proceeding merely because their law clerk’s third-degree relative has a child in common with one of the parties, where the law clerk has no familial connection to any of the parties, witnesses, or subject child in the present proceeding. If the judge chooses to make a disclosure, the judge retains full discretion to preside and permit the law clerk to participate in the matter, whether or not the parties object.
Opinion 23-77 May a full-time judge donate $100 to sponsor an award at a local Independence Day parade organized by a not-for-profit civic entity, where the judge’s connection will be announced at the end of the parade and the parade is a non-political, non-fund raising event?
Opinion 23-78 A judicial association may not consent to have its name listed as a client on a consultant’s website.
Opinion 23-79 A judge may accept a trade union’s offer of a social dinner and overnight accommodations at the union’s annual convention for the judge and their spouse, where the union and its members have not come, and are not likely to come, before the judge.
Opinion 23-80 (1) Where the town court clerk is involved in litigation against their relatives in another court, a town justice need not disclose or disqualify in matters involving the court clerk’s attorney and the relatives’ attorney, but must insulate the court clerk from such matters. (2) The insulation must continue until the representation completely ends, including payment of outstanding legal fees.
Opinion 23-81 A judge may not host an event at their home for a federal legislator to discuss national issues with interested community leaders, colleagues, friends, and neighbors.
Opinion 23-82 After a judge’s adult child has been convicted and sentenced, a judge may attend and participate in the child’s subsequent parole hearing, provided they do so in the obvious role of a parent and without reference to their judicial status or otherwise invoking the prestige of judicial office.
Opinion 23-83 Where a court-sponsored committee on racial equality in the courts has been directed to interact with the local community and develop projects that highlight local history, judges on the committee may publicly support an effort to rename a local geographic feature that currently bears a racially offensive name, but must not assume a leadership role in the effort or use judicial or court resources to file the name change application with federal authorities.
Opinion 23-84 A judge may host an informal event at the courthouse, with light refreshments, to thank and recognize the not-for-profit entities that participate in the court’s community service program by permitting defendants to satisfy their community service requirements as part of a negotiated sentence.
Opinion 23-85 Must a full-time judge disclose or disqualify in matters involving the city police department where the judge's spouse is employed as a police officer with no supervisory responsibilities? What are the judge's obligations in the event the judge's spouse is promoted to a supervisory position?
June 2023 Release 2
Opinion 23-44 (1) For two years after the representation is completely terminated and all fees are paid, a judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from all matters in which an attorney who personally represented the judge appears before the judge, and the judge must disclose the former representation when other attorneys from the same law firm appear before the judge. (2) Where the judge serves in a court with appellate jurisdiction, and their former counsel seeks leave to participate as amicus curiae in a case during that two-year period, the judge may not vote on their ex-counsel’s application. If the application is granted by the judge’s colleagues, the judge thereafter must not participate in the appeal unless it is practicable in the judge’s court to make full disclosure on the record or, where applicable, offer an opportunity for remittal of the judge’s disqualification. (3) On a motion to submit an amicus brief, a judge without conflict may vote to approve or to deny the motion based on the merits of the brief and the value of its submission, in accordance with any applicable law or rules that govern such decisions. However, the judge should not consider potential practical impacts from other judges’ anticipated disqualification unless applicable law, rules, or administrative orders permit the judge to do so.
Opinion 23-45 Where a judge was represented by private counsel in a hybrid Article 78 proceeding that has since concluded, must the judge continue to disclose or disqualify in matters involving the judge’s private attorneys and/or other members of their law firm?
Opinion 23-46 Where a judge’s spouse is the Corporation Counsel and thus the head of the agency and/or attorney of record for the office: (1) In general, the judge must disqualify from any case involving the Corporation Counsel’s office. However, this disqualification may be subject to remittal after full disclosure on the record, provided the judge’s spouse remains permanently absent from the courtroom. (2) In civil or criminal matters involving a subpoena for records of a city office or for testimony of a city employee (including the city police), if any attorney from the Corporation Counsel’s office appears, the judge is disqualified. However, this disqualification may be subject to remittal after full disclosure on the record, provided the judge’s spouse remains permanently absent from the courtroom. (3) The judge generally may preside in criminal cases when the Corporation Counsel’s office is not prosecuting or otherwise appearing in the case, even if the arrest was made by a city employee. (4) When a part-time assistant corporation counsel appears as a privately retained attorney, disclosure is sufficient, provided the judge’s spouse has no involvement or interest in the matter.
Opinion 23-47 A town justice may accept an invitation from the town board to attend a town board meeting and address questions “for public information” concerning the court’s procedures and limitations with respect to the collection of fees and court security, to help explain and clarify the court’s role in these matters. The judge may not comment on any pending or impending cases and should be careful not to cast doubt on their integrity, impartiality, and independence in adjudicating matters that could result in revenue for the town.
Opinion 23-48 (1) A judge who formerly served as the town attorney is not disqualified from presiding in matters handled by a lawyer who previously served on the town board during the judge’s tenure as town attorney, even if the lawyer plans to, or does, call the judge as a witness and/or seek the judge’s emails and records concerning events that took place during that period. Rather, the judge may preside as long as the judge concludes they can be fair and impartial. (2) Where the lawyer also claims the existence of “extreme animosity” between them and the judge, recusal is not warranted where the judge has conducted the relevant interpersonal analysis and has determined that the judge can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 23-49 A judge may wear judicial robes when giving the keynote address at a public high school graduation.
Opinion 23-50 When a judge has reported an attorney to a disciplinary authority, is the judge disqualified from presiding over matters involving the attorney and/or the attorney’s law partner?
Opinion 23-51 A full-time judge may not request a fee waiver to enroll in online diversion courses that the prosecution seeks to require as a condition of a negotiated plea agreement.
Opinion 23-52 May a full-time judge ethically purchase and renovate a building at the judge’s sole personal expense, and donate it to a not-for-profit religious organization for which the judge is also the head minister?
Opinion 23-53 A full-time quasi-judicial official may not join a government advisory council that seeks to implement comprehensive domestic violence services to survivors who need assistance addressing child support, unless the council’s membership includes representation from all participants in the adjudicative process.
Opinion 23-54 (1) A judge’s impartiality cannot reasonably be questioned based on (a) de minimis political contributions made more than two years ago or (b) the business and/or political activities of the judge’s first-degree relative, where the relative has no direct or indirect involvement in the proceeding and no interests that could be substantially affected by the proceeding. (2) As a result, the judge is not ethically required to disclose such facts or circumstances sua sponte in the proceeding, regardless of any surrounding publicity or lack thereof. The judge may continue to preside in the matter provided the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 23-55 Where a judge has only a professional relationship with an attorney, and has no pre-existing relationship with the attorney’s non-attorney child, what are the judge’s ethical obligations after officiating at and attending the attorney’s child’s wedding?
Opinion 23-56 A full-time judge may serve on a nominating committee which reviews employment applications for a local Boy Scout Council, and makes recommendations to the Council’s board of directors.
Opinion 23-57 A town justice may provide armed security services at a restricted federal facility outside the jurisdiction where the judge presides, where the facility is not open to the public and the position does not involve police or peace officer status and is not authorized to make arrests.
Opinion 23-58 May a judge purchase a ticket to a bar association event where entry to the event must be made by a donation to a not-for-profit charity?
Opinion 23-59 May a full-time judge write law review or law journal articles summarizing the current state of New York case law and developments therein? If so, may a judge identify future issues in the development of case law?
Opinion 23-60 May a part-time village justice permit a part-time village court clerk to also serve as a part-time assistant village clerk, performing ministerial functions in the village’s finance department?
Opinion 23-61 (1) A judge may not serve as the director of environment and legislation for a not-for-profit organization which seeks to promote scuba-diving. (2) Although the judge may engage in certain public advocacy activities where the judge has a clear and direct personal interest at stake, the judge may not spearhead the organization’s efforts to protest a planned discharge of substances into a local waterway.
June 2023 Release 1
Opinion 23-22 May a full-time judge volunteer in a mock trial program and teach an extracurricular law class for students at a not-for-profit private high school?
Opinion 23-24 A judge who concludes there is a substantial likelihood that an attorney sought to compromise a criminal prosecution for personal financial gain must report that attorney to the grievance committee.
Opinion 23-25 (1) A full-time judge who learns that a law firm's website advertises its experience appearing before particular judges, and hosts individual biographical pages for those judges on its own website in a format that combines the judges' information with the solicitation of business, must request in writing that the firm take down these biographical pages and remove the associated links. (2) On these facts, reporting is not mandated; any exercise of the judge's disciplinary functions is left to the judge's sole discretion.
Opinion 23-26 (1) A judge who is concerned about violations of property maintenance regulations in the judge’s neighborhood may publicly express the judge’s personal views as a private citizen whose personal interests are affected by the lack of zoning enforcement, including at a public meeting of the city council or in a letter to the editor. (2) On these facts, the judge may also draw on the judge’s prior experiences as a city prosecutor and a city court judge to propound suggestions to the mayor and city council about how the local court could address these quality-of-life issues, but should not refer to the judge’s present judicial status in doing so.
Opinion 23-27 A family court judge may enter into a memorandum of understanding with an agency that provides a "safe haven" facility for free supervised visitation and safe exchange of children, where the agreement sets forth a general expectation that (1) the court will continue to make referrals as needed in appropriate cases and (2) the judge and court staff will participate in giving and/or attending appropriate domestic violence training along with a wide variety of other signatories. As the agreement does not purport to mandate specific training programs, the judge must exercise discretion and participate only when doing so will not create an appearance of impropriety or raise reasonable questions about the judge's impartiality.
Opinion 23-28 May a full-time judge serve on the board of directors of two local not-for-profit organizations: 1) [City] Partners in Education, which “partners with students to ensure they are ready for, enroll in, and complete college” and “does not engage with the Courts at all” and 2) Cluster, Inc., which provides, among other programs, community mediation services including in small claims court?
Opinion 23-29 Subject to limitations on price and number of tickets, a candidate for election to judicial office may pay the lowest price offered to the general public, even if specially discounted tickets are made available to district leaders.
Opinion 23-30 May a full-time judge appear in a short documentary film by a non-profit filmmaker about a state statute, describing their work with a judicial association in support of that statute’s adoption?
Opinion 23-31 May a part-time town justice accept employment as a security guard/usher for university sports games in a neighboring county?
Opinion 23-32 May a full-time judge accept an invitation to speak before a class at a public college on matters of civil law, including the trial process, evidentiary considerations and pitfalls, and the judge’s journey to the law and the bench?
Opinion 23-33 A full-time judge may mentor applicants seeking to obtain a nomination to one of the nation’s military service academies.
Opinion 23-34 May a town justice contact the District Attorney and the town to point out their concerns that the town’s code enforcement proceedings do not comply with the law, when no code enforcement cases are before the judge? If the same deficiencies appear the next time a code enforcement action comes before the judge, may the judge dismiss the action without a motion from the defendant?
Opinion 23-35 A magistrates association may send a letter to the District Attorney outlining the association’s concerns about the District Attorney’s policy concerning appearances and plea bargaining in vehicle and traffic law matters.
Opinion 23-36 Where a judge concludes that an attorney disregarded a court directive and engaged in a deliberate deception, intended to perpetrate a fraud and deceive the parties and/or the court, the judge must report the attorney to the appropriate grievance committee.
Opinion 23-38 May a town justice, whose spouse is employed by a local not-for-profit parochial school, display in front of the judge’s home a sign advertising the name of the school, grade levels and a phone number?
Opinion 23-39 A quasi-judicial official whose significant other is a businessperson may take part in gifts and benefits provided by various businesses as their significant other's guest, where (1) the significant other and the business donors do not have, and are unlikely to have in the future, interests that are likely to come before the referee and (2) the receipt of such gifts would not create the impression that such businesses are in a special position to influence the referee.
Opinion 23-40 A judge is not disqualified from presiding over an Article 78 proceeding to compel a police department to disclose certain disciplinary records merely because the judge’s spouse, now fully retired, was formerly a high-ranking police official in another county.
Opinion 23-41 A judge need not take any further action after being inadvertently exposed to a list of campaign contributors and should not investigate whether a prospective appointee was a campaign contributor.
Opinion 23-42 A part-time town justice may serve as a Nurse Clinic Manager for a county correctional facility in the same county, but must disqualify from any matter involving an inmate for whom the judge personally reviewed the inmate’s medical file or otherwise personally participated in the inmate’s care, either directly or as a supervisor.
Opinion 23-43 A judicial candidate may appear in joint campaign advertisements only with candidates who make up the slate of which the judicial candidate is a part. Candidates are on the same slate if they (a) have been endorsed by the same political party and/or (b) will appear on the same political party's ballot line.
May 2023 Release
Opinion 22-175 A judge may participate in a not-for-profit entity's "backpack program" which provides a personalized gift to each adoptee and/or adoptive parent following a finalized adoption.
Opinion 22-176 Must a judge who authorizes or knowingly permits their name to appear on a publicly circulated nominating petition as a candidate for nonjudicial office resign from judicial office?
Opinion 22-177 (1) A judge who was formerly a supervisory-level attorney at the Legal Aid Society: (a) is permanently disqualified in cases in which the judge participated in any way as an attorney, whether in a personal or supervisory capacity and (b) is disqualified, subject to remittal, from presiding over matters involving former clients for a period of two years, commencing from the end date of the judge's employment with Legal Aid. (2) Whether the judge may preside over cases involving a former Legal Aid colleague with whom the judge is "still friendly" depends on the nature of the relationship.
Opinion 22-178 May a judge, who serves as a mentor at a law school, write a letter of recommendation in support of a mentee student's application for permanent residence in the United States?
Opinion 22-179 A judge is not disqualified from an Article 78 proceeding in which a media outlet seeks to compel a law enforcement agency to disclose certain information about an inmate pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law, merely because the judge's attorney spouse sent a preservation letter to the same agency on an unrelated matter.
Opinion 22-180 A full-time judge may accept an invitation from an overseas not-for-profit charitable foundation to speak at an annual conference on a matter concerning the legal system and, under the circumstances, may accept the organization's offer of business class airline travel.
Opinion 22-181 A trial court judge may hire a law student for a judicial internship for academic credit while the student is simultaneously employed part-time in a non-legal paid position at an investment bank which has cases before the judge. Assuming the judge can be fair and impartial, the judge may still preside in cases involving the bank, but must disclose to the parties the student's relationship with the bank and insulate the student from those cases.
Opinion 22-183 Where a part-time town justice who is also a full-time superior court law clerk was formerly represented by counsel in a divorce action, but more than two years have elapsed since the attorney-client relationship completely terminated, including payment of legal fees: (1) In town court, the judge need not disqualify or disclose in matters involving the law firm, including the attorney(s) who personally represented the judge, based on a representation that concluded more than two years ago. Opinions 19-104, 19-93, 18-42, 17-76, 15-08, 10-99, 10-56, and 08-171/08-174 are modified to reflect that, after the two-year period, whether to disclose is solely within the judge's discretion. (2) In superior court, the town justice (as law clerk) should inform their judge of the nature and circumstances of the prior representation so that the superior court judge can determine how to proceed when the law firm appears.
Opinion 22-184 A village justice who serves in that capacity without compensation (1) may not simultaneously serve as a justice of the supreme court or a judge of the district court but (2) may, subject to any requisite administrative approvals, simultaneously serve as a support magistrate or court attorney-referee.
Opinion 22-185 Where a housing court judge, who is a shareholder and proprietary lessee in a cooperative apartment building, learns that the building's board of directors has hired a new management company that manages many other properties that are located in the jurisdiction of the judge's court: (1) The judge is not disqualified from presiding in matters where the managing company appears before the judge, but must disclose the relationship on the record; (2) Where court papers disclose the name of an individual managing agent, but not their corporate affiliation, the judge need not investigate whether the agent is affiliated with the management company; (3) Upon learning during the proceedings that the management company is involved in a case, it is sufficient for the judge to make full disclosure on the record.
Opinion 22-186 Is a town justice disqualified from presiding over matters in which the town is represented by a law firm that employs the judge's first-degree relative as an associate?
Opinion 22-187 A full-time judge (1) may serve as co-chair of the ACACIA Network, a not-for-profit social services organization, provided the judge does not serve in a court that makes referrals to the organization, but (2) may not serve on a bar association committee on corrections and community reentry on the facts presented.
Opinion 22-188 May a part-time town justice maintain concurrent full-time employment with the Unified Court System in another county, as a Court Assistant?
Opinion 22-189 A part-time judge may participate in (1) a county or local task force formed as part of the New York State Climate Smart Communities program and (2) their municipality's strategic investment committee.
Opinion 22-190 A full-time judge whose former client has discharged initial successor counsel and retained entirely new counsel may meet with the new attorneys and the former client to discuss records relating to the former representation, but must not offer legal or tactical advice.
Opinion 22-191 (1) A full-time judge may assist a not-for-profit organization in developing a training program designed to educate medical professionals, first responders and others on assessing, evaluating and responding to domestic violence situations, provided the program and participants are not so imbalanced as to cast doubt on the judge's impartiality. (2) The judge may also participate in presenting the training, provided the panels on which the judge serves are "balanced" and the judge abides by generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct, including the public comment rule.
Opinion 22-192 (1) A full-time city court judge whose part-time co-judge is an assistant county attorney need not recuse from cases in which other attorneys from the county attorney's office appear, provided that the co-judge has had absolutely no involvement in the matter. (2) A full-time city court judge may accept an appointment by the city to serve on the board of a not-for-profit organization that receives state funding to rehabilitate blighted properties, provided the organization is not likely to appear in the judge's court or to be engaged regularly in adversary proceedings in any court.
Opinion 22-193 (1) A part-time town justice may appear as assigned counsel in another county, or before non-lawyer judges or full-time judges in the same county, and may submit vouchers for assigned counsel work already completed. (2) While the judge has pending assignments or unpaid vouchers in assigned counsel cases, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, when the assigned counsel administrator appears in the judge's court. (3) During this period, if the assigned counsel administrator's law partner has a financial interest in the assigned counsel cases, then the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, in matters involving the law partner. Conversely, if the assigned counsel administrator's law partner has no financial interest in the administrator's income from their work as assigned counsel administrator, the judge may preside when the law partner appears.
Opinion 23-01 A full-time judge may create and participate in a series of non-commercial podcasts to highlight individuals whose accomplishments have had an inspirational and positive impact on the community, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct. To avoid any possible perception that the judge intends to lend judicial prestige to the individuals the judge selects to interview, the judge should not refer to their judicial status in connection with the podcast.
Opinion 23-02 A part-time town justice, who is a high school teacher, may comment in the classroom on a pending or impending case arising in another jurisdiction. The judge may not reference specific cases in the judge's court unless and until those cases are completely resolved, including any appeals that are pending. However, if students ask about matters relating to a pending or pending case in the judge's court, the judge may respond by guiding a discussion that seeks to examine all sides of any issue without offering a personal opinion or predicting how the matter should or will be decided.
Opinion 23-03 A judge who is an officer of a magistrates association may invite the prosecutors, defense counsel, probation and various law enforcement and county agencies to attend and speak at monthly magistrates association meetings where no pending or impending matters are discussed. Any portion of the meeting when magistrates association's business is discussed or transacted should be private, outside the presence of such outside attorneys and agencies.
Opinion 23-04 May a part-time attorney judge practice before a full-time court attorney referee in Family Court?
Opinion 23-05 A new full-time judge asks several questions arising out of their recent employment with a law firm partly owned by their spouse and their earlier employment with a different law firm.
Opinion 23-06 A judge may continue to be a life member of the National Rifle Association.
Opinion 23-07 Must a judge continue to insulate their law clerk from matters involving a law firm that previously represented the law clerk, and disclose the insulation, once the representation has completely terminated and all fees are paid?
Opinion 23-08 The inquiring judge is the successor judge in a civil matter which was decided by another judge before their term ended. The prevailing party has submitted a judgment for signature by the successor judge, consistent with the ruling of the ex-judge. However, the successor judge believes that the ruling and judgment are contrary to the law. The successor judge asks 1) whether the ethics rules require the judge to sign the judgment; 2) what alternative steps the inquiring judge may take; and 3) whether the ex-judge may sign the judgment in their current quasi-judicial capacity.
Opinion 23-09 A judge, as the editor of a legal manual used by judges, court personnel, defense attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement and others, may dedicate the manual to "hard-working individuals that uphold our Criminal Justice System."
Opinion 23-10 A city court judge need not object to a city police department's automated phone system which offers callers an opportunity to be transferred directly to the court clerk's general office line if they are calling about a court appearance, fine, disposition or court paperwork.
Opinion 23-11 A part-time judge may maintain employment in a child advocacy center within a law enforcement office in a county different from where the judge presides and may serve as treasurer of a volunteer fire department. We decline to comment on questions that are unduly speculative and hypothetical.
Opinion 23-12 A judge need not disqualify merely because an attorney in the case shares office space with the judge's attorney sibling, where the attorneys maintain separate and independent law practices and do not share support staff or letterhead or otherwise hold themselves out as associated in the practice of law.
Opinion 23-13 A part-time town justice may serve as a part-time assistant conflict defender in the county in which the judge's court is located.
Opinion 23-14 Where the inquiring judge's current law clerk was previously the longtime law clerk to another judge, who is now "of counsel" to a law firm but will work exclusively with one attorney and never appear in court: (1) The judge need not disqualify or disclose when the law firm colleagues of the ex-judge appear. (2) Whether the judge must insulate the law clerk from cases involving other attorneys from that firm is fact-specific, and depends on the nature of the relationship between the law clerk and the attorney who appears.
Opinion 23-15 A full-time judge may not request that federal and state legislators protect the power grids from electromagnetic nuclear attack, as this does not relate to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, and does not involve an identified cognizable personal interest. Further, issues generated by the legislation the judge seeks could be controversial or political.
Opinion 23-16 A judge need not disclose or disqualify from a case merely because a party's high-level employee, who will be present in the courtroom, also (1) was previously a client of the judge more than two years ago and (2) is married to a public official who was recently on the same slate as the judge and publicly endorsed the judge.
Opinion 23-17 Will the Committee reconsider Opinion 22-131, based on the provided details of specific assignments as family court chief clerk/court clerk and town justice in the same county? Is there a time limit on the insulation and disqualification obligations set forth in Opinion 22-131?
Opinion 23-18 (1) On the facts presented, it is necessary to amend the proposed form to make clear that any disposition of the matter by way of a plea is subject to court approval. (2) Once that change is made, there is no ethical impropriety in the proposed simplified form that would neutrally inform defendant motorists who have mailed in "not guilty" pleas on alleged Vehicle and Traffic Law violations of all their options (including the right to retain an attorney; to continue to plead not guilty and have a trial; to plead guilty and waive the right to trial; and the possibility of communicating directly with the prosecutor to negotiate a mutually acceptable disposition subject to the court's approval). (3) Inviting the defendant to choose an option and return the form to the court is ethically permissible where doing so (a) does not suggest the court is favoring any option, (b) does not create any appearance that the court is serving as the prosecutor's intermediary, and (c) is expected to help defendants avoid a wasted trip to the courthouse in light of the prosecutor's decision not to send any representative to court on alleged Vehicle and Traffic Law infractions unless a trial is scheduled. (4) Whether a judicial association or an individual judge has the authority to adopt this form is a legal issue the Committee declines to answer.
Opinion 23-19 (1) On the facts presented, a town justice may acquiesce in the town supervisor's proposed changing of locks to the court offices, pursuant to a town resolution and town policy. (2) If, as events unfold, the judge finds that the town supervisor abuses their access to court areas, otherwise interferes with court operations, or undermines judicial independence, the judge should report any such actions to an appropriate supervising or administrative judge.
Opinion 23-20 (1) On these facts, a judge who has first-hand knowledge of an attorney's insistence on undertaking a particular representation, notwithstanding the judge's prior warnings about a clear conflict of interest, must take "appropriate action." (2) Where the attorney's conduct does not rise to such an egregious level that it seriously calls into question the attorney's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer, the judge has full discretion to determine what action is "appropriate" under the circumstances.
Opinion 23-21 Although a judge must respect and comply with the law, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics cannot resolve legal or administrative questions and declines to comment on past conduct, hypothetical conduct, or the conduct of third parties.
April 5, 2023 Broadcast
Opinion 22-153 (1) A judge need not recuse from a small claims case merely because they might potentially learn about another judge's possible legal, procedural and/or ethical missteps in another case. (2) The inquiring judge is in the best position to determine whether they have received information indicating a substantial likelihood that another judge has committed a substantial violation of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct and, if so, what action is appropriate under the circumstances. (3) We cannot respond to questions about past conduct, legal issues, conduct of another judge, or interpretation of another judge's decisions/rulings.
Opinion 22-154 (1) A judge whose law clerk was formerly an equity partner at a law firm must insulate the law clerk from all cases in which the law clerk had any involvement whatsoever as an attorney, and must disclose the insulation. (2) While the law clerk is receiving periodic “vesting payments” from their former law firm for fees generated during the partnership, the judge must make full disclosure in all matters where that law firm appears. After disclosure, the judge may preside if the judge can be fair and impartial, and need not insulate the law clerk solely on the basis of these vesting payments. The obligation to disclose the vesting payments terminates when the payments completely end.
Opinion 22-155 A judge who is seeking election or re-election to judicial office may, during the applicable window period, record and post short videos on their personal social media accounts for the purpose of connecting with the public to highlight the judge’s qualifications for judicial office and provide educational content on alternate dispute resolution and mediation. At the end of the window period, the judge must remove the videos from all social media accounts.
Opinion 22-156 (1) A full-time judge may accept a $10,000 honorarium to serve as a mentor-in-residence at a SUNY/CUNY college, where (a) the duties of the mentor-in-residence over the course of a semester involve guest lecturing in selected courses, meeting with groups of students and faculty on assorted topics, and holding office hours for mentoring students and (b) the college offers the same standard honorarium to any such mentors-in-residence. (2) Whether these activities may take place during regularly scheduled court hours, with time charged to annual leave, are administrative questions to be determined by the appropriate Administrative Judge.
Opinion 22-157 Where the remaining tasks are essentially ministerial and do not involve legal work, a new full-time judge may complete their service as a referee in foreclosure, pursuant to a court appointment that was made before the judge assumed the bench. Thus, the judge may, if necessary, conduct closings after January 1st, hold the proceeds in escrow pending a court order directing their release, and seek a court order regarding disposition of unresolved monies remaining in an escrow account.
Opinion 22-158 A full-time judge may be the uncompensated guest speaker discussing aspects of the judge’s life and career path related to diversity and inclusion at a for-profit company’s employee-only event, where the company’s interests are unlikely to come before the judge and the judge’s name and image would not be used for commercial purposes.
Opinion 22-159 A full-time judge may participate, without compensation, in an interview for a documentary about the life and career of a now-deceased judge who served as the inquirer’s mentor.
Opinion 22-160 On the facts presented, a judge may not participate in a public demonstration against gun violence.
Opinion 22-161 A judge may purchase a sponsor-level ticket to a bar association's fund-raising dinner and be publicly listed as a "sponsor" of the event.
Opinion 22-162 (1) Once a judge's first-degree non-lawyer relative, a college student, accepts an internship with a private law firm, the judge must disclose the relationship when the law firm appears before the judge and determine whether the relative has or had any involvement with the case. If the relative is or was involved in the case, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal if the judge's relative will remain permanently absent from the courtroom. Otherwise, if the relative had no involvement, the judge may preside after disclosure, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. (2) In the alternative, if the law firm demonstrates to the judge's satisfaction it has taken steps to ensure the judge's relative is and will be completely insulated from all of the firm's cases before the judge, the judge must still make a disclosure when the firm's lawyers appear, but may otherwise rely on this ethical screen or wall and need not inquire in each instance about the relative's involvement. (3) Although the judge may not direct the law firm to assign cases in a particular way, the judge may advise the law firm about the possibility of insulating the judge's relative. (4) The judge's obligations with respect to the law firm end when the relative's temporary employment relationship with the firm completely terminates.
Opinion 22-163 May a full-time judge, who has independently written and published a bench book, sell copies of that book to the supervising judge of another court in the Unified Court System for distribution to judges in that court?
Opinion 22-164 (1) A judge must report an attorney who, on learning that a non-party would only honor a judicial subpoena, personally signed a subpoena above the judge's name and served it on the non-party. However, reporting may wait until the conclusion of the case. (2) A judge has no disciplinary obligation with respect to an attorney for a non-party who honored the purported judicial subpoena. (3) With respect to an allegation that an attorney provided a photograph of their client's party adversary acting unprofessionally to that party's employer, the judge has full discretion to determine whether the judge has received information indicating a substantial likelihood that the attorney committed a substantial violation of the attorney ethics rules. If the judge concludes this standard is not met, the judge need not take any action. If the judge concludes this standard is met, the judge must take appropriate action, but has full discretion to determine what action is appropriate under the circumstances.
Opinion 22-165 A full-time judge who participated in writing a screenplay before assuming judicial office (1) may be credited by name as a writer in the ensuing fictional film, notwithstanding that the judge's contributions were based on the judge's prior unsuccessful efforts to seek judicial office and other experiences but (2) may not participate in a question and answer session following the screening of the film, even in an academic setting.
Opinion 22-166 Where a part-time attorney judge unknowingly arraigned a defendant who was a complaining witness against one of the judge's clients in an unrelated case, but then, on discovering the conflict, immediately transferred the matter to the co-judge and notified all parties, the judge need not take any further action.
Opinion 22-167 When a town justice learns that the court clerk and the clerk's children served as paid witnesses for a local attorney's clients on a limited number of occasions, and have since stopped at the advice of the judge, must the judge take any further action with respect to the court clerk's conduct?
Opinion 22-168 Where a judge has been sued in the judge's former official capacity as a nonjudicial public official: (1) If the judge is being represented by the county attorney's office: (a) During the representation, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving the specific county attorney who is undertaking the representation. (b) After the representation concludes, the judge may preside in matters involving that attorney, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. Disclosure of the former attorney/client relationship is discretionary. (c) Both during and after the representation, the judge has no obligation to disclose or recuse with respect to other county attorneys who have no involvement in representing the judge. (2) If private counsel is retained to represent the inquiring judge: (a) During the representation, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, from matters involving the specific attorneys who are representing the judge, subject to remittal. With respect to other partners or associates of the law firm, who have no involvement in representing the judge, the judge must disclose the representation while the representation is ongoing. (b) After the representation concludes, the judge need not disclose or disqualify in matters involving the law firm and/or the specific attorneys involved in the representation, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 22-169 A village justice who is a lawyer may represent the village mayor in providing legal advice and negotiations in the dissolution of the mayor's marriage.
Opinion 22-170 A full-time judge (1) may write and teach on legal topics such as no-fault insurance arbitration but (2) may not respond to private inquiries from no-fault insurance arbitrators on specific cases.
Opinion 22-171 May an appointed associate village justice also serve as elected town justice for the town in which the village is located?
Opinion 22-172 On these facts, a judge who is deciding a disqualification application as a matter of law has no additional ethical obligations under the Rules. (1) The fact that the judge's first-degree relative is employed by a non-party real estate company that does business with one party in the litigation does not require disqualification, where neither the judge's relative nor the relative's employer has any interests that could be substantially affected by the proceeding. (2) The judge has full discretion to determine whether or not the judge has received information indicating a substantial likelihood that an attorney has committed a substantial violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and, if so, what action is appropriate
Opinion 22-173 (1) Where an appellate judge successfully sought to vacate a vexatious lien filed by a disgruntled litigant against the judge's real property, the judge may nonetheless preside over appeals from other decisions or orders rendered by the lower court judge who granted the petition to vacate, provided the appellate judge can be fair and impartial. (2) While an appellate judge is the uncompensated administrator and sole beneficiary in a relative's uncontested estate proceeding, the judge need not recuse from appeals involving other orders or decisions issued by the Surrogate overseeing the estate proceedings or from appeals involving the Public Administrator and/or its counsel, provided the appellate judge can be fair and impartial. However, disclosure is required at a suitable point in the appeal, whether in writing or from the bench.
Opinion 22-174 (1) At this time, the remaining duties described are not ministerial, as this specific matter remains open and pending in significant respects until and unless the judge receives information indicating that the former client has either consulted with an attorney or has refused to do so. (2) Thereafter, if the former client wishes to proceed with the settlement as negotiated before the judge assumed full-time judicial office, the judge may complete the remaining ministerial functions necessary to finalize the settlement and collect previously earned legal fees.
March 17, 2023 Broadcast
Opinion 22-130 (1) Where a judge's non-attorney child is employed as an assistant/"runner" with a law firm, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, whenever an attorney from the law firm appears in the judge's court. This obligation continues throughout the child's employment with the law firm. (2) The judge may not appoint attorneys from the law firm to fiduciary positions during the relative's employment with the law firm.
Opinion 22-131 A town justice who is also a court clerk in family court may not preside over a justice court criminal case, where the defendant is also a party in a family court action involving similar allegations and the town justice previously heard allegations or testimony pertaining to that case in family court.
Opinion 22-132 A judge may preside in matters involving the ex-spouse of the judge's fifth-degree relative. The judge's prior recusals, made during the relative's marriage, do not require recusal in all subsequent matters involving the same litigants.
Opinion 22-133 Where a judge knows their spouse retained counsel on a personal legal matter, and that attorney represents other clients before the judge: (1) During the representation, the judge is disqualified in matters involving that attorney, and must not preside unless the disqualification is properly remitted after full disclosure on the record. (2) Once the representation concludes and all fees are paid, and provided that the judge had no direct interest in the subject matter of their spouse's representation, for two years, the judge must fully disclose the former representation when the attorney appears, but may then preside as long as the judge can be fair and impartial. (3) After the two-year post-representation period, the judge has no further obligation to disclose or recuse.
Opinion 22-134 May a county court judge permit their law clerk to run for and hold office as a county legislator in a county which is not contiguous to the county in which the judge presides?
Opinion 22-135 A part-time judge, who also serves as a deputy town attorney for another town, may not in their role as town attorney assist the town police department in seeking Extreme Risk Protection Orders.
Opinion 22-136 A part-time town justice may not simultaneously be employed part-time as a community school liaison with the county sheriff’s office.
Opinion 22-137 (1) A judge may not permit the court clerk to compile information for the sheriff's office about defendants who have missed court appearances, but may permit sheriff's office personnel to access court records in the same manner as other members of the public in accordance with applicable law. (2) A judge may permit the court clerk to sign a supporting deposition prepared by the sheriff's office concerning a defendant's missed court appearances, based on information of public record contained in the court files, provided the judge concludes it is legally permissible for the court clerk to do so. (3) Where the prosecutor thereafter brings a new bail-jumping charge based on that supporting deposition, and seeks an arrest warrant on that charge, the judge may preside in the matter if the judge can be fair and impartial.
Opinion 22-138 A judge may attend the wedding of an attorney who regularly appears in the judge's court, provided the attorney is not on trial before the judge at the time of the event. For two years thereafter, the judge must disclose his/her attendance as a wedding guest when the attorney appears in the judge's court. Opinions 12-90, 11-125, 11-101, and 06-44 are hereby modified to require disclosure for two years after the judge is a social guest at an attorney's wedding.
Opinion 22-139 Where a judge is aware that their third-degree relative (a niece, nephew, aunt, or uncle) has consulted with and/or retained an attorney in a matrimonial matter, may the judge preside in unrelated cases where the relative’s attorney represents other clients? Is disclosure necessary?
Opinion 22-140 A part-time judge may serve as a volunteer ombudsman under the New York State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, but must disqualify in any case involving the program or its participants.
Opinion 22-141 (1) A judge who has been properly noticed to serve on a grand jury panel must report for service unless excused by the presiding judge, notwithstanding that many assistant district attorneys appear before them. (2) If the judge serves as a grand juror, the judge may not thereafter preside in that case if it comes before the judge's court.
Opinion 22-142 A judge may serve on a bar association's board of directors, even if another board member is a judicial candidate and the subject of unfavorable media attention concerning allegations of illegal drug use and dishonesty.
Opinion 22-143 A judge may take appropriate action to address disruptions of the court's docket by an attorney who, when regularly appearing of counsel to multiple law firms, engages in disrespectful conduct toward the court and staff, is uncooperative, refuses to discuss settlement of cases and is often unprepared.
Opinion 22-144 May a judge preside in a landlord's petition for nonpayment against certain tenants, given that, in the course of presiding in a code violation case, the judge learned the tenants vacated the premises over a month ago?
Opinion 22-145 May a court attorney-referee serve as a board member on a county board of ethics in a different county, where the board hears complaints and makes recommendations regarding sanctions?
Opinion 22-146 May a judge preside in matters involving a non-profit organization for which the judge previously served as an uncompensated board member, given that the judge resigned from the board shortly before assuming judicial office?
Opinion 22-147 Where a judge has made a statutorily required allocution concerning an unrepresented tenant’s potential claims and defenses, and the tenant says they do not understand them, there is no ethical impropriety in offering the tenant a document prepared and posted by the Unified Court System for public information, entitled “Common Defenses in a Landlord-Tenant Case.” However, the judge should not recommend any particular defense listed.
Opinion 22-148 A town justice who receives correspondence from their co-judge’s election opponent with accusations against the co-judge, but has no first-hand knowledge of any misconduct, is not obligated to take any action.
Opinion 22-149 A judicial candidate, if elected, may appoint their campaign treasurer as their principal law clerk, provided that (1) any remaining duties of the treasurer are strictly ministerial and the treasurer is no longer involved in political fund-raising or other prohibited political activity at the time of the appointment and (2) the appointment is based on merit.
Opinion 22-150 May a judge make charitable donations to Vote.org, which describes itself as the "largest 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan voting registration and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) technology platform in America, with the goal of reaching historically underserved voters of color and underrepresented young voters"?
December 5, 2022 Broadcast
Opinion 22-113 A judge who reported another judge's alleged misconduct to an administrative judge has no further ethical obligations, unless the inquiring judge concludes that the alleged misconduct seriously calls into question the other judge's fitness as a judge.
Opinion 22-114 A judge may serve as the "on-call" judge for a general election when the judge's law clerk is on the ballot, but the law clerk may not assist the judge with any election-related matters.
Opinion 22-115 A judge who has personal knowledge that another judge responded to a law enforcement agency's arrest announcement by publicly praising the agency for "solv[ing] this crime," and also knows that the arrested individual will likely be brought before the other judge for proceedings in the matter, must report the other judge to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Opinion 22-116 A part-time attorney judge may not place an advertisement promoting their law practice on a building owned by a local business that frequently appears before the judge.
Opinion 22-117 A part-time town or village justice may not simultaneously serve as a Deputy Chief of the Veterans Affairs Police Department.
Opinion 22-118 A judge who previously served as the District Attorney may not preside over a parole recognizance hearing concerning a parolee or releasee who had originally been convicted and sentenced during the judge's former tenure as the District Attorney.
Opinion 22-119 (1) A new full-time judge may liquidate the remaining inventory from a prior business activity on the judge's personal eBay account. The aggregate profit from any such sales in excess of $150 over the course of a calendar year must be reported as compensation for an extra-judicial activity under Section 100.4(H)(2). (2) A judge may not accept gratuities or other compensation for officiating a wedding in excess of the amount permitted by law. However, a judge may receive reimbursement of reasonable and necessary actual travel, food and lodging expenses incurred while performing an out-of-town wedding, which need not be reported pursuant to Section 100.4(H)(2). (3) A judge may maintain personal social media accounts, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct.
Opinion 22-120 It would be improper for the constable who serves as the administrator and apparent head of the town constabulary to provide court security for the town court.
Opinion 22-121 A full-time judge must report net rental income in excess of $150 received in the most recent calendar year to the clerk of the court under Section 100.4(H)(2), but it would be unduly burdensome to require judges to amend past Section 100.4(H)(2) reports.
Opinion 22-122 (1) Where a judge receives a letter from an assistant district attorney in which the attorney (a) admits secretly altering the supporting materials for a wiretap and ping order after the judge signed the order, (b) urges federal prosecutors not to use or rely on any evidence obtained from the order, and (c) urges federal prosecutors to share the letter with defendants and the court, the judge must report the attorney to the grievance committee. (2) After reporting the assistant district attorney, the judge must disqualify in all cases involving that attorney both while the disciplinary matter is pending and for two years thereafter.
Opinion 22-123 A judge with personal knowledge of an attorney's apparently deliberate misrepresentations to their client about having secured an adjournment, resulting in a default and inquest, and the attorney's subsequent failure to appear when the matter was returned to the calendar, mandate reporting the attorney to the appropriate grievance committee. Reporting may await the conclusion of the 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 22-124 A judge may attend an annual fund-raising gala equally benefitting Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation, as a guest of the judge's partner.
Opinion 22-125 Provided the court attorney-referee can be fair and impartial, the referee is not disqualified from a small claims case merely because (1) both parties were once colleagues of the referee during the referee's former employment as an assistant district attorney and (2) the District Attorney's office interviewed the referee as a fact witness in an unrelated criminal investigation regarding one party.
Opinion 22-126 An Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator who holds a court attorney-referee title may not engage in political activity, even if they do not currently perform quasi-judicial functions.
Opinion 22-127 A part-time town justice may serve as a per diem chaplain for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in another county, but must disqualify from any case involving an inmate to whom they rendered pastoral care or assistance.
Opinion 22-128 A part-time town justice may not maintain employment as an "asset protection specialist" for a large retail chain.
Opinion 22-129 A judicial candidate may not authorize a political party committee to solicit and accept campaign contributions on their behalf in lieu of forming a campaign committee.
October 3, 2022 Broadcast
Opinion 22-89 A full-time judge (1) may participate in a group, organized by the Governor’s office and the Department of Motor Vehicles, that will propose simpler verbiage and more logical organization for the Vehicle and Traffic Law, where the membership is balanced with subject matter experts from relevant state agencies, non-profits, prosecutors, and defense counsel; (2) may be reimbursed for travel and lodging expenses reasonably incurred; but (3) may not be compensated for work performed on behalf of the group.
Opinion 22-90 Where a judge's ex-spouse is a law enforcement officer who issued the accusatory instrument for a Vehicle and Traffic Law charge, but any financial obligations between the judge and their ex-spouse have been discharged, the judge (1) must disclose the former marital relationship but (2) may thereafter preside, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. This disclosure obligation does not expire.
Opinion 22-91 May a full-time judge or quasi-judicial official work on an amicus brief that a bar association will file in a high-profile federal appeal?
Opinion 22-92 (1) A full-time judge who is a mortgagee need not report mortgage interest income to the clerk of the court under Section 100.4(H)(2). (2) A full-time judge who rents real property through Airbnb must report rental income to the clerk of the court under Section 100.4(H)(2) if the judge nets more than $150 in a calendar year from it.
Opinion 22-93 A candidate for elective judicial office may not provide free notary services to the public to promote their campaign.
Opinion 22-95 A part-time non-attorney judge may remain on the board of directors of a property owners association in another county, even if the association may take delinquent owners to small claims court to recover back dues owed.
Opinion 22-96 A judicial candidate or their campaign committee may post photographs on social media of the candidate together with sitting judges at a public or professional event, such as a bar association function, provided (a) the photograph was published with the consent of the judges, (b) there is no verbiage that indicates an endorsement, and (c) a caption makes clear that the judges depicted do not endorse the candidate's judicial campaign.
Opinion 22-97 A full-time judge may teach a law school clinic that will research and draft proposed legislation to create civil liability for encouraging, assisting or facilitating racially motivated crimes. A judge may also propose such legislation to legislators.
Opinion 22-98 May a full-time judge serve as the trust protector of a supplemental needs trust for the judge's fourth-degree relative by marriage?
Opinion 22-99 A full-time judge may meet with a commercial television producer and their creative team to discuss a possible television show involving the criminal justice system, even if the meeting could result in an employment offer or business opportunity which the judge cannot commence without resigning from judicial office.
Opinion 22-100 A JHO who presided over a contract dispute between a construction manager and a subcontractor (1) need not advise building residents of an apparent variance from specifications in the installation of certain bathroom stall doors and (2) may not direct the attorneys to investigate whether this variance presents a potential safety issue.
Opinion 22-101 A part-time town justice may simultaneously serve as the chief administrative law judge for a town code administrative bureau in the same town.
Opinion 22-102 (1) Where a judge's remaining unexpended campaign funds after conclusion of the window period are more than de minimis, but unusual circumstances make it significantly impracticable to return those funds pro rata to contributors, the judge may donate the entire amount to a not-for-profit entity that operates a childcare program at any courthouse of the Unified Court System for children of litigants in that court, with instructions that the funds be used for that purpose. (2) Unexpended campaign funds may not be used to commission a historical plaque for the courthouse.
Opinion 22-103 May a part-time judge serve on the steering committee of a compensation fund to determine eligibility and make distributions for certain defined categories of victims and/or survivors of an attack that took place on the premises of the judge's outside employer?
Opinion 22-104 May a village justice provide the village mayor with a monthly list of the number of cases that have been tried or dismissed by the court each month, for publication in the village board's monthly newsletter?
Opinion 22-105 May a full-time judge attend an overseas educational trip as the guest of a not-for-profit entity that does not appear in the judge's court?
Opinion 22-106 A town judge should not accompany town board members and/or engineers to visit property owners and provide information about a project that benefits the judge’s outside employer.
Opinion 22-107 Where the advertisements for a bar association’s free run/walk will promote a business entity as the sole sponsor of the run/walk as a reward or perk for the entity’s sponsorship of an upcoming fund-raiser, a judge (a) may not be advertised as the “run leader” for the run/walk, but (b) may nonetheless appear unannounced and lead the run/walk.
Opinion 22-108 May a judge preside when a former assistant district attorney who prosecuted the judge's first-degree relative in a criminal matter a decade ago appears on unrelated matters?
Opinion 22-109 A part-time judge may engage in consulting services to deliver in-person classroom training on workplace violence prevention and other personal safety strategies, outside the county in which the judge presides, to civilian government and non-profit attendees, provided that the judge’s judicial title or status is not used or mentioned in any marketing efforts.
Opinion 22-110 A part-time judge may not serve on a selection committee that is organized by the sheriff's office for the purpose of interviewing and selecting current corrections officers and supervisors for promotion opportunities.
Opinion 22-112 A judge must disqualify in matters involving the law firm partners and associates of an attorney who testifies on the judge's behalf in a disciplinary proceeding, both during the proceeding and for two years after its conclusion. During this period, the judge's disqualification is subject to remittal, provided the judge can be fair and impartial and strictly complies with all requirements for remittal.
August 24, 2022 Broadcast
Opinion 22-71 A judge may present an educational program on family offense petitions to a sheriff's office, provided the judge does not provide partisan advice on litigation strategy or tactics and otherwise complies with generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct. The session may be held in a training room at the sheriff's office or virtually.
Opinion 22-72 A full-time criminal court judge who presides in a problem-solving court and makes referrals to a not-for-profit entity (1) may observe the entity's programming for individuals who have completed all court mandates but voluntarily return to the agency for additional services; (2) may observe the entity's pre-petition, diversion programming for juveniles who may be subject to delinquency proceedings but who do not have any pending criminal court proceedings; and (3) may not accept complimentary tickets to attend the entity's lavish fund-raising gala, but may purchase tickets and attend the event.
Opinion 22-73 May a full-time judge (1) serve on the steering committee of a not-for-profit cultural/religious organization associated with a college, and donate at least $1000 per year as required; (2) permit their name to be listed on the organization's regular letterhead, including the title "Honorable"; and/or (3) permit their name to be listed on an invitation to the Society's fundraising events?
Opinion 22-74(B) Where a full-time judge earned fiduciary commissions as co-executor of an estate before assuming the bench, the judge need not report those commissions to the clerk of the court under Section 100.4(H)(2), even if they are paid after the judge assumes full-time judicial office.
Opinion 22-75 A judge may accept an invitation to speak at a free community celebration of Pride month, provided the event is not a fund-raiser, and subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct. The judge may also permit the organization to use the judge’s photo and title in social media promotions advertising the free event.
Opinion 22-76 A judge may not write a letter of congratulations to the judge's parent to be read aloud at an upcoming political fund-raiser sponsored by a political organization, which is being held outside the judge's window period for political activity.
Opinion 22-77 A part-time judge may serve as an inspector of election in a school board election but may not serve in the capacity of chairperson, poll clerk or assistant poll clerk.
Opinion 22-78 Where a judge's college student grandchild was previously a paid temporary clerical intern for the summer at a local law firm, with only clerical duties, the judge has no obligation to disclose or disqualify in matters involving the law firm after the internship ends.
Opinion 22-79 A judge may not perform in a rock band’s annual benefit concert, even if the judge’s name and judicial status will be omitted from advertisements. The judge may not sell concert tickets to friends, but may sell to family members.
Opinion 22-80 A judge in a problem-solving court may not write a letter at the request of a criminal defendant or their counsel attesting to the importance of the defendant’s court-related employment. Where the court coordinator is employed by a not-for-profit entity, the judge should not take any position on whether the court coordinator may write such a letter.
Opinion 22-82 May a judge rule on a cross-motion for sanctions, where the basis for sanctions is counsel's filing of a frivolous motion for the judge's recusal based on misleading and false allegations about the judge's conduct, which counsel also repeated in a complaint to the Commission on Judicial Conduct?
Opinion 22-83 A judge may preside in litigation involving a large national retail chain, notwithstanding that the judge’s non-lawyer relative has an entry-level management position at one retail store in this chain, unless the judge’s relative is personally involved in the matter.
Opinion 22-84 A judge must object in writing to use of their name on a flyer announcing a not-for-profit civic organization's fund-raiser and advise the organization to remove or omit the judge's name from any further fund-raising announcements or invitations. Once the judge has done so, the judge may attend the event and, on these facts, be recognized as one of multiple inductees during the induction ceremony. The judge may make charitable contributions to the organization, including by purchasing a table for friends and family to attend the event.
Opinion 22-85 Where a judge believes an attorney may be engaging in unprofessional and/or unethical conduct that is causing unnecessary delays and disruption to court proceedings, but lacks substantial first-hand knowledge of the alleged misconduct, the judge is not required to take any action, but may do so in the judge’s discretion. The propriety of a judge’s determinations about granting continuances, entering scheduling orders, and sanctioning clients are legal questions beyond our authority to address. However, the judge may not engage in impermissible ex parte communications by sending a letter exclusively to an attorney on one side of the case cautioning them that their requests for continuances will be carefully monitored and subject to scrutiny.
Opinion 22-86 A new full-time judge may submit vouchers for legal fees earned for work performed as assigned counsel prior to assuming the bench.
Opinion 22-88 (1) Where a judge's sibling is the Police Chief of a municipality, the judge is ordinarily disqualified from all matters involving that police department, including matters where the judge concludes the agency or its personnel have been or will likely be involved. However, the disqualification is subject to remittal if the judge's sibling is unlikely to personally appear in the courtroom and remains permanently absent. As always, remittal requires full disclosure on the record of the basis for disqualification and is subject to the voluntary affirmative consent of all parties and, if represented, their counsel.
(2) With respect to trial-ready cases involving that police department, which were filed before the judge's sibling became the Police Chief, and where another judge conducted and decided all evidentiary hearings: (a) if a police officer is unlikely to be called in the matter, the judge may preside, provided the judge is not called upon to decide any issues whatsoever concerning the conduct or credibility of the police; (b) if a police officer is called as a witness in the matter, the judge is disqualified from the matter, although the disqualification is subject to remittal if the judge's sibling is unlikely to personally appear in the courtroom and remains permanently absent; (c) if the judge's sibling is likely to, or does, personally appear in the courtroom in the matter, the judge is disqualified and this disqualification is not subject to remittal.
August 17, 2022 Broadcast
Opinion 22-54 A part-time village justice: (1) may serve as chair of a village traffic and safety committee, where the committee's role is strictly advisory concerning matters such as the location of signs and the judge's involvement will not involve the judge in political issues or matters of great public controversy that are likely to raise reasonable questions about the judge's ability to be fair and impartial; (2) may not serve on the board of the New York Bicycling Coalition, where the entity engages in advocacy and takes positions on issues of great public controversy; (3) may serve on the New York Coalition for Transportation Safety, where that entity focuses on educating the public and is not engaged in lobbying or involved in matters of great public controversy.
Opinion 22-55 May a full-time judge create a scholarship at their former elementary school and college, both of which the judge will be fully funding? May the judge volunteer with foster youth through a city agency?
Opinion 22-56/22-67 A judge who appoints fiduciaries in a guardianship part (1) may direct court staff to update the Part 36 fiduciary list by contacting the listed individuals to inquire whether they are currently accepting such assignments; (2) may personally inquire whether a prospective appointee is available to accept assignment in a particular case, even if the Alleged Incapacitated Person is indigent, provided the judge avoids undue pressure or coercion; and (3) may also direct court staff to make such inquiry on the judge’s behalf.
Opinion 22-57 A judge may serve as master of ceremonies at a non-fund-raising retirement picnic sponsored by congregants of the judge’s house of worship for its minister.
Opinion 22-58 A town justice may not permit a court clerk to accept outside employment as a matron with the town police department that regularly appears in the justice's court.
Opinion 22-59 A judge is disqualified from appointing their personal financial manager to a fiduciary position.
Opinion 22-60 A judicial candidate may use a de minimis amount of campaign funds for a modest and reasonable "pre-thank you" party for campaign committee members, as a kick-off event for the campaign.
Opinion 22-61 A judicial candidate who learns that their political party is circulating petitions naming them as a candidate for non-judicial office must request in writing that the party immediately cease circulating the petitions and advise that, if elected, the candidate will decline to serve. Once that is done, the candidate has no further obligation.
Opinion 22-62 (1) A town or village justice may participate in a court efficiency study ordered by the local municipality, but may not acquiesce in municipal actions that are likely to interfere with court operations or that will compromise the independence of judicial office. The judge should report any such actions to an appropriate supervising or administrative judge. (2) We cannot address legal or administrative questions, such as the allocation of authority to select, hire, assign and supervise various non-judicial personnel to work in the local justice courts, or whether a municipality may establish an appointive administrative judge position to handle certain matters.
Opinion 22-63/22-74(A)/22-87 (1) A full-time judge who owns and rents real property must report this rental income under Section 100.4(H)(2) if the judge nets more than $150 in a calendar year from it. (2) Where the judge rents the property through Airbnb, the judge may report the name of the payor as “Airbnb.” (3) Where the judge rents residential real estate within the State of New York to an individual tenant, the judge may report the place of the activity as “State of New York” and identify the payor tenant by first initial and last name.
Opinion 22-64 A judge who has no personal knowledge that attorney-defendants impermissibly contacted represented plaintiffs in a matter pending before the judge is not required to report the attorneys to the grievance committee.
Opinion 22-65 Application and enforcement of the Office of Court Administration’s work schedule policies to non-judicial court personnel are primarily administrative matters, which the Committee cannot address.
Opinion 22-66 When appearing before a full-time judge on behalf of a client, a part-time lawyer judge should not make an unnecessary, voluntary disclosure that they once presided in a criminal case involving the full-time judge's administrative secretary.
Opinion 22-68 A part-time town justice may simultaneously serve as an administrative law judge for a town code administrative bureau in the same town.
Opinion 22-69 A judge with relevant personal knowledge may provide a character reference for a longtime friend’s application to open a bank account overseas where the bank’s form requires a reference from certain designated professions, including judges.
Opinion 22-70 Where a judge receives documents in camera for review as permitted by law, is the judge thereafter disqualified in the matter?
June 30, 2022 Broadcast
Opinion 22-41 May a judge write a law review article "that would review statutory, regulatory and administrative efforts to address the intersection of domestic violence and child protection in NY and 3 other states"?
Opinion 22-42 A judge need not disclose nor recuse from a proceeding merely because an attorney in the matter is also the judge's neighbor and has, in that capacity, supported a non-controversial residential zoning variance sought by the judge.
Opinion 22-43 Must a judge who has become aware of online complaints about off-duty misconduct concerning another judge's principal law clerk report that clerk to the attorney grievance committee?
Opinion 22-44 A part-time town justice also employed full-time by a private employer may respond to another town’s request for public input on its zoning laws which prohibit that employer’s operations. In so doing, the judge must not reference the judge’s judicial title or status.
Opinion 22-45 May a town justice accept a salary increase approved by the town board partway through the judge's current term of office?
Opinion 22-46 A judge who is experiencing apparent acts of retaliation from a self-identified "sovereign citizen" litigant may write to the county clerk on judicial stationery to advise them of the situation and request they authenticate any lien/judgment filings prior to recording.
Opinion 22-47 Once a judge has reported a litigant's harassment to the police and the DA's office, is the judge disqualified from other criminal matters involving the same prosecutor and police department?
Opinion 22-48 May a part-time city court judge serve concurrently as a full-time executive director of a not-for-profit center for social and criminal justice, where the center will operate a mental health treatment facility that will not accept any defendants from the judge's jurisdiction?
Opinion 22-49 After a judge admonished an attorney on the record for an inappropriate attempt at humor referencing the client's ethnicity or national origin, the judge has discretion to take further action, but is not required to do so.
Opinion 22-51 A full-time judge who previously served on a town’s zoning board is disqualified on all matters which were pending before the board during the judge’s tenure. However, the judge may preside in other matters involving the zoning board, assuming the judge is satisfied they can be fair and impartial, and disclosure is entirely discretionary.
Opinion 22-52 What are a judge's obligations in matters involving an assistant district attorney whose parent (a solo practitioner) is representing the judge in a private legal matter?
Opinion 22-53 May a town court clerk also serve as town justice in the same two-judge, two-clerk town court?
March 24, 2021 Special Broadcast - Important Opinion on Remittal
Opinion 21-22(A) Remittal of disqualification is a three-step process requiring full disclosure on the record of the basis for disqualification and the voluntary affirmative consent of the parties and their counsel. However, we no longer prohibit remittal of disqualification merely because a party is unrepresented. We hereby modify our prior opinions to abolish that requirement.
Researching and Retrieving Other Committee Opinions
Formal and Informal Ethics Inquiries
Get Advice: Individuals who are subject to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct may seek further guidance from the Advisory Committee on how to apply these and other rules and opinions to their own prospective conduct in specific circumstances.