Recently Released Opinions

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

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

  • Opinions are not in strict numerical order; they are collected in groups.
  • Use your web browser's search function (e.g., Ctrl+F) to search for a word or opinion number on this page.
  • For opinions grouped by subject matter, visit Subject Matter Index. (Coverage starts in 2015.)
  • For a searchable list of digests, visit Searchable Opinion Digests.  (Coverage starts in 2009.)

You may also search all published opinions and/or request an opinion.


April 12, 2024 Broadcast

Opinion 23-209 A judge may sign a family tree affidavit for the estate of the judge's long-time close friend, based upon facts within the judge's personal knowledge.

Opinion 23-210 A judge may, subject to administrative approval, designate a publicly available folder in the court clerk’s office to contain duplicate copies of the court’s non-sealed written criminal decisions in chronological order.

Opinion 23-211 A town justice may not permit his/her attorney assistant to accept part-time employment in the District Attorney’s office in the same county.

Opinion 23-212 (1) A part-time judge may serve on the legislative committee of a lawyers’ association, provided its agenda and activities are limited to improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. (2) A town justice who previously provided legal services to the town must disqualify in all matters in which the town is a party for a period of two years from the termination of the representation. The disqualification is subject to remittal.

Opinion 23-213 A judge may serve on the board of a not-for-profit organization dedicated to maintaining a local park and providing educational and cultural programs for the community.

Opinion 23-214 A full-time judge who has co-authored a screenplay on a topic unrelated to the law may not use the judge’s judicial title to solicit agents and movie producers for the screenplay, and should likewise instruct the judge’s co-authors not to use the judge’s judicial title in promoting the screenplay.

Opinion 23-215 Where a judge’s personal legal matter completely terminated in August 2023, including payment of legal fees, the two-year disqualification period runs until August 2025.

Opinion 23-216 An administrative judge may not organize quarterly community volunteer opportunities for the judiciary and non-judicial staff.

Opinion 23-217 A judge (1) may not speak about the judge’s “philosophy” on pistol permits to gun advocacy groups or sportsmen/sportswomen; (2) may make non-political charitable contributions and/or be a regular member of the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Sierra Club, and Planned Parenthood, but may not donate to their political arms or assume any leadership position within them; (3) may make contributions to and/or be a member of not-for-profit educational, religious, charitable, cultural, fraternal, or civic organizations such as a public radio station, Salvation Army, a Rotary Club, and Operation Unite; and (4) may serve on a library board organized as a not-for-profit charitable, educational, or civic entity, but may not be involved in lobbying efforts or in seeking to influence legislation affecting the library.

Opinion 23-218 (1) A judge who presides in estate proceedings may continue to serve on the board of directors of a not-for-profit hospice organization, even after the judge becomes aware that a testator named the hospice as a beneficiary in their will. (2) The judge may preside over the probate of a will that contains a bequest to the hospice, absent a challenge to the bequest. If a challenge occurs, the judge must disqualify.

Opinion 23-219 A judge may serve as financial secretary of a not-for-profit cemetery organization, provided the judge refrains from the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities.

Opinion 23-220 A town court clerk may not maintain part-time employment in the private law office of an assistant public defender assigned to the town court.

Opinion 23-221 A town justice may serve on the board of a not-for-profit organization formed to preserve and protect a nearby lake. The judge may not serve on the subcommittee that serves as a liaison with law enforcement and conservation officers, but may attend the subcommittee’s annual luncheon.

Opinion 23-222 A judge may be honored as “Woman of the Year” at a cultural not-for-profit organization’s International Women’s Day event, provided the event is not a fund-raiser.

Opinion 23-223 (1) A town justice may advocate for the judge’s preferred schedule and scheduling policies for use of the town’s multi-purpose room as a courtroom, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct. (2) On these facts, while the judge may pursue lawful avenues to challenge the resolution, the judge may not simply disregard the resolution and schedule court sessions as if it had not been issued.

Opinion 23-224 Although a part-time judge may not serve on a school board, he/she may accept appointment as a community representative to certain advisory committees established by the school board for the local school district: (1) the judge may serve on the district-wide safety team, provided that its work focuses on policies and procedures to promote safety in the schools, and does not involve law enforcement or investigatory functions, and (2) the judge may serve on a citizens finance committee which advises the superintendent and budget officer on annual budget development, capital improvement projects, and the like.

Opinion 23-225 A judge may wear an American flag pin on the judge’s judicial robe.

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March 22, 2024 Broadcast

Opinion 23-148 A judge who presides in civil matters may participate in a university-sponsored educational program at a correctional facility in another region of the state.

Opinion 23-149 A new full-time judge may retain the lease of the office previously used for the judge's solo legal practice, where the lease is in the name of the judge and not the law firm under which the judge was doing business.

Opinion 23-150 Once a judge and their spouse jointly hire a law firm to mediate their divorce negotiations, the judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, in all matters where the law firm appears. This obligation lasts while the mediation relationship is ongoing and for two years after the mediation relationship completely ends and all fees are paid.

Opinion 23-151 A judge may preside over Article 75 proceedings challenging employment arbitration awards, where the state agency employer was previously represented in-house by the judge's law clerk's spouse, but the judge must insulate the law clerk and make appropriate disclosures.

Opinion 23-152 A judge with relevant personal knowledge may provide an affirmation of good moral character on behalf of a first-time applicant for admission to the bar.

Opinion 23-153 A town justice is disqualified, subject to remittal, in matters involving a deputy sheriff after the deputy has been elected to the town board.

Opinion 23-154 A full-time judge may permit their court attorney, who does not have a quasi-judicial title nor functions, to engage in political activity, subject to certain limitations.  The court attorney may consult the Office of Court Administration’s Nonjudicial Ethics Helpline for guidance on any issues that may arise under Part 50. 

Opinion 23-155 A judge may not accept an invitation as a keynote speaker for an event sponsored by a law center that is engaged in matters of substantial public controversy and whose mission focuses on supporting core political and executive branch functions.

Opinion 23-156 A town justice who was previously a non-supervisory police officer in certain local police departments is not disqualified on that basis from cases involving those police departments, provided the judge (1) had no personal involvement in the matter before him/her and (2) can be fair and impartial.

Opinion 23-157 A part-time attorney judge need not disclose or disqualify in matters involving the sheriff's office, merely because the judge's law firm is representing first-degree relatives of the county sheriff in a personal legal matter.

Opinion 23-158 A judge who assumes judicial office on an apparently unequivocal campaign pledge to incarcerate offenders, exclude drug dealers from the community, ensure maximum sentencing of repeat offenders, and protect victims of domestic violence, thus effectively promising to aid law enforcement rather than apply the law neutrally and impartially in such matters, is disqualified during his/her entire judicial term from: (1) all criminal cases; (2) cases in any court involving allegations of domestic violence; (3) all Vehicle and Traffic Law matters; and (4) cases in any court involving purported drug dealers. Disqualification on this ground is not subject to remittal.

Opinion 23-159 A judge may not stand for election to or serve on a local school board notwithstanding their child's attendance at a local public high school. The judge may attend and participate in school board meetings as the parent of a current student.

Opinion 23-200 The Chief Judge may, as the chief judicial officer of the Unified Court System, represent the judiciary's interests by accepting an invitation to speak at a legislative conference sponsored by a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit entity, at a specific session focused on the judiciary's operational needs and/or experience with respect to developing technologies. The judge may not otherwise attend or participate in the legislative conference.

Opinion 23-201 A part-time judge who serves as part-time counsel to a county legislature, representing the entire legislative body, may not ordinarily attend or participate in any caucus meetings. However, the judge may enter such meetings on an issue-by-issue basis to provide a legal opinion on a legal or procedural issue, provided the judge's activities are clearly identifiable as those of an attorney representing a client and not as partisan political activity.

Opinion 23-202 A quasi-judicial official may purchase a home at a court-conducted auction or through an online auction platform, provided he/she had no involvement in the home foreclosure and does not lend, or appear to lend, the prestige of quasi-judicial office to influence the sale.

Opinion 23-203 Questions about a former quasi-judicial official's return to the private practice of law after retirement from the court system raise primarily legal questions beyond our jurisdiction.

Opinion 23-204 (1) A judicial candidate may use the ActBlue online payment system to purchase tickets to attend a variety of political fund-raising events within the applicable window period, subject to the usual limitations on price and number of tickets for each event. (2) The candidate must exercise caution to avoid adding an optional tip or agreeing to make a recurring payment, and should carefully review the online payment screen for any note or indication that a portion of their payment will be sent to additional recipients or used for a purpose other than the political event for which the candidate intends to purchase tickets.

Opinion 23-205 A judge may not participate as a panelist in a bar association's Continuing Legal Education program about a recently settled civil action in which the judge presided, together with attorneys who appeared in the case, unless: (1) the time for appeals has expired; (2) no collateral proceedings are reasonably foreseeable; and (3) the panel includes attorneys from both the plaintiff's side and the defense side.

Opinion 23-207 (1) A part-time judge who is a private investigator (a) may conduct surveillance and write reports for school districts in another county concerning extended sick leave employees, but (b) may not conduct investigations for a college regarding allegations of sexual harassment/assault. (2) A part-time judge may, as an instructor for a private company, present training to law enforcement regarding implicit bias and other types of biases.

Opinion 23-208 Where a retired judge's former law clerk worked for the inquiring judge in a limited capacity for four months before returning to private practice, the judge need not disclose or disqualify in matters involving the retired judge's former law clerk. The judge may also appoint the former law clerk as attorney for the child.

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March 8, 2024 Broadcast

Opinion 23-125 A part-time lawyer judge is disqualified, subject to remittal, in all matters involving an attorney who is employed by the judge's client as in-house counsel and operations manager and serves as the judge's primary client contact.

Opinion 23-126 (1) A judge need not disqualify from matters involving an attorney who is no more than an acquaintance, merely because the attorney's spouse is the judge's close personal friend. (2) For two years after attending the attorney's wedding as a member of the wedding party at the request of the judge's close personal friend, the judge must make full disclosure of his/her relationship with the attorney, including the judge's attendance and participation in the attorney's wedding.

Opinion 23-127 A judge may congratulate successful youth part participants with a handwritten note, but may not include the note in a gift bag of commercially branded promotional items.

Opinion 23-128 A judge may consult with another judge on a matter over which the other judge has appellate jurisdiction without violating the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, but the practice is ill-advised.

Opinion 23-129 Because generating and maintaining an extensive library of educational videos on conflict resolution on a judge’s personal social media account(s) will readily be perceived as a campaign of self-promotion, it is only ethically permissible during the judge’s window period.

Opinion 23-130 (1) Subject to certain limitations, a part-time lawyer judge may serve as an assistant county attorney in the General Legal Services division, providing legal advice and services to the county clerk, to the board of elections, and on insurance matters, public health matters, purchasing, and real estate transactions. (2) The judge may not handle prosecutorial or quasi-prosecutorial matters; may not represent the public safety and communications departments, district attorney, public defender, conflict defender, assigned counsel program, sheriff’s office, probation department, first responders, crime lab, or mental health department including Kendra’s Law proceedings; and may not represent the health department with respect to adolescent tobacco law enforcement and health code violations.

Opinion 23-131 The facts presented do not require the inquiring judge to disclose or disqualify in other matters beyond what the judge already plans to do.

Opinion 23-132 A treatment court may accept a donation of toiletries from a local bar association to be given to court participants by treatment court staff.

Opinion 23-133 (1)(a) We cannot provide blanket guidance about attending various public events that invite participants to “stand with Israel,” as the answer requires fact-specific determinations. (b) A judicial candidate within their window period may contact the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center concerning the propriety of attendance. (2) Subject to generally applicable limitations, a quasi-judicial official may speak on the laws of war; the emotional/spiritual valences of terror, trauma, and moral complexity; the need to reduce and eliminate implicit and overt bias and prejudice; and recent casualties in the Mideast. The official should exercise discretion and avoid unduly partisan and inflammatory language. (3) On these facts, this inquirer should not display or publish for educational purposes an extremely racist and antisemitic cartoon they recently received. (4) A quasi-judicial official may publicly discuss their own experiences of racism/prejudice and secondary trauma and their own personal observations of such effects on their family members. (5) A quasi-judicial official may (a) display another sovereign nation’s flag at their residence, (b) appear in photographs with flags of other nations, and (c) wear a lapel pin displaying flags of one or more nations at non-court events. (6) We cannot comment on any remaining issues, as they are subject to multiple factual variations.

Opinion 23-134 A part-time judge may chair a county veterans agency’s advisory committee, which meets a few times per year to select veterans to honor at agency-sponsored ceremonies that are free and open to the public.

Opinion 23-135 A town justice may commence an action against the town regarding a personal matter unrelated to the business of the court.

Opinion 23-136 A judge may not initiate a drive to collect toys or dental hygiene products on behalf of non-profit, charitable organizations within a courtroom or courthouse, and may not partner with bar associations to initiate such drives. A judge may solicit charitable donations of toys or dental supplies from other judges over whom he/she does not have any supervisory or appellate authority.

Opinion 23-137 The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not require a judge to report their own ethics violation to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Opinion 23-138 On these facts, after disclosing a letter received ex parte from the victim’s attorney concerning a criminal case, the judge need not recuse.

Opinion 23-139 Where a full-time judge’s former law firm advises the judge that a former client recently posted an online review of the judge’s legal services, the judge must request that the law firm remove the judge’s name from such review but need not take any further action.

Opinion 23-140 (1) A judge must not personally participate in soliciting funds for a not-for-profit civic or charitable organization and therefore must not: (a) send out solicitation letters for the organization; (b) post announcements about the organization’s fund-raising activities or initiatives on social media; (c) post a link to a page that solicits donations; (d) sell raffle tickets; (e) stand at the door of a fund-raising event and collect tickets; (f) solicit, collect, or accept money for a “bounce house” rental, but may participate in setting up and taking down the bounce house; (g) solicit, collect, or accept money for a fund-raising dinner, but may cook and serve food, set up and clean at the dinner; (h) solicit bottles and cans to be converted to cash at a redemption center, or collect cash for them at the center, but may pick up bottles and cans that were previously solicited and collected by others and help sort them and bring them to the redemption center. (2) A part-time judge who serves on a county’s rural health council may not post announcements or notices on social media about the council’s fund-raising efforts or clothing drive, but may post information about other health-related initiatives and programs to encourage healthy living. (3) A judge may not promote local businesses and/or businesses operated by the judge’s friends, family, and classmates on social media.

Opinion 23-143 A town justice may preside in Vehicle and Traffic Law matters even if the judge believes the issuing law enforcement agency may follow a policy of enforcing traffic laws only against non-residents, provided the judge can be fair and impartial on a case-by-case basis.

Opinion 23-144 May a full-time support magistrate in one county serve as a volunteer arbitrator in the small claims part of a different court in another county, but should consult the OCA’s Nonjudicial Ethics Helpline for guidance on any issues that may arise under Part 50.

Opinion 23-145 A part-time judge may “ghostwrite” a not-for-profit organization’s fund-raising letters and grant applications that will be signed, submitted and circulated by others without crediting the judge, provided the judge does not personally solicit funds, does not permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising, and does not permit his/her name to appear as the author or signatory on any fund-raising solicitations or grant applications.

Opinion 23-147 A judge may wear a rainbow pin or flag on the judge’s personal clothing, and display like pins, flags or signs in the judge’s chambers.

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December 13, 2023 Broadcast

Opinion 23-104 A Surrogate’s Court judge is not required to remove a Public Administrator who has served for many years if an associate in the Public Administrator’s law firm marries the child of a New York State judge.

Opinion 23-105 A judge may be honored at a non-fund-raising event held by a not-for-profit organization, even where the entity will recognize the judge for prior assistance in fund-raising before the judge assumed judicial office.

Opinion 23-106 May a full-time judge participate as a presenter or panel member at a public high school’s Global Citizenship Day, a non-fundraising event?

Opinion 23-107 (1) A judge who previously served as General Counsel to the District Attorney is disqualified from presiding over any matter that the judge knows he/she was personally involved in or supervised in any way as an attorney, even minimally. (2) Sealing applications pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law 160.59, violations of probation, parole recognizance hearings, and Sex Offender Registration Act hearings are deemed a continuation of the original case for ethics purposes. (3) Otherwise, the judge ordinarily has no obligation based on the judge’s prior employment with the District Attorney’s office unless the judge (a) determines that a case before the judge has substantial connections with a matter the judge was involved with at the District Attorney’s office and (b) also concludes that the prior matter is “materially relevant” to the pending case. If those conditions are met, the judge must fully disclose the connection between the two cases, as well as the nature and extent of the judge’s involvement in the former proceeding. Thereafter, the judge may preside if the judge can be fair and impartial, even if an attorney or party objects. If disclosure is impracticable in the judge’s court, the judge should disqualify in these matters.

Opinion 23-108 A judge may not accept an award prominently sponsored by a commercial entity, even where the award is unannounced and ancillary to a fund-raising event for a not-for-profit organization. However, nothing in the rules precludes the judge from attending the underlying fund-raiser.

Opinion 23-109 May a part-time judge serve as special counsel for the County Attorney’s office, a position which includes no criminal prosecutorial duties and which would be insulated from all matters involving the district attorney, public defender, conflict defender, and county sheriff in the judge’s own county? Must the judge seek advance written approval for dual employment pursuant to 22 NYCRR 50.3?

Opinion 23-62/23-63/23-111 On the facts presented, the inquiring administrative judge has full discretion to determine whether there is a substantial likelihood that a part-time judge has committed a substantial violation of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct and, if so, what action is appropriate under the circumstances.

Opinion 23-112 (1) A full-time judge seeking a post-judicial retirement professorship at a private law school may participate in the application process by submitting a research agenda, giving a “job talk” presentation, and interviewing with different segments of the law school community, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct. (2) The “academic exception” to the public comment rule applies when a judge is applying for employment as a full-time law professor, and therefore the judge may discuss pending or impending cases in other jurisdictions. (3) With respect to pending or impending cases in the judge’s jurisdiction, the judge may, during the application process, (a) respond to questions by guiding a discussion that seeks to examine all sides of an issue without offering a personal opinion or predicting how the matter should or will be decided and/or (b) provide minimal and essentially factual commentary on changes in the law by noting the nature and extent of changes, unresolved questions, regional differences, and procedural impacts that are clear on the face of the decision, provided the judge does not resolve ambiguities or otherwise interpret the opinions described and does not express subjective praise or criticism of them.

Opinion 23-113 Where a judge concludes that there is a substantial likelihood that an attorney made biased and harassing comments to court personnel and opposing counsel during a court appearance but outside the judge’s presence, the judge must report this conduct to the appropriate attorney grievance committee.

Opinion 23-114 (1) A full-time judge may not serve as an officer or director of a not-for-profit community group organized to oppose a municipality's proposed changes to a public park by litigation and other means, and may not engage in community outreach or fund-raising on behalf of the group. However, the judge may make charitable donations to the group and may engage in certain public advocacy activities on the judge's own behalf where the judge has a clear and direct personal interest at stake. (2) A non-judge candidate for judicial office may continue to engage in such activities, provided they are kept separate from the candidate's judicial campaign.

Opinion 23-115 A part-time town justice may not remain "of counsel" to the law firm that represents the town planning board.

Opinion 23-116 A judicial association may enter into a licensing agreement with a vendor to create and sell themed products to association members, provided such agreement is non-transferable, and the association prohibits the vendor from using the association's name in any advertising or listing the association as a customer/client.

Opinion 23-117 (1) Once a judge's law clerk's spouse becomes the Public Defender, the judge (a) must completely insulate the law clerk from all cases involving the PD's office, (b) must disclose both the relationship and the insulation, and (c) may thereafter preside in the matter, provided the judge can be fair and impartial, even if a party objects. (2) Insulation means that the law clerk will not participate at all in matters involving the PD's office, including by conferencing cases, performing substantive legal research, and drafting decisions.

Opinion 23-118 (1) A full-time judge may serve as the administrator of a not-for-profit religious organization's food pantry, and may prepare the pantry's funding applications, but may not personally sign them. The judge must instead designate someone else from within the organization to sign the applications. (2) Because the NAACP engages in some activities clearly permissible for judges as well as some potentially controversial lobbying, advocacy and litigation activities, a judge may be a member of the NAACP but may not serve as president of a local chapter.

Opinion 23-119 On these facts, a judge may not facilitate the District Attorney's driver diversion program by providing the DA's office with copies of defendants' accusatory instruments in Vehicle and Traffic Law matters.

Opinion 23-120 A town justice is not required to report a violation of a town ordinance that came to the judge's attention during a small claims proceeding, but may do so in his/her sole discretion. If the judge chooses to report the violation, he/she may not preside over any resulting proceedings.

Opinion 23-121 A judge may not permit a fraternal organization to use the judge's likeness, image or affiliation for any fund-raising purposes, and therefore the judge should instruct the organization not to use the judge's video interview at an event where one purpose of the event is for fund-raising.

Opinion 23-122 A judge may attend generic cultural/holiday celebrations hosted by elected public officials, where such events are free and open to the public and are paid for by state/government funds rather than campaign funds.

Opinion 23-123 A village justice who formerly served as a special prosecutor for Vehicle and Traffic Law matters: (1) May preside in matters where the village justice was not involved in any manner during his/her prior employment as special prosecutor; (2) May undertake the strictly ministerial duty of depositing and transmitting fine monies in matters where the defendant motorist accepted the special prosecutor's plea offer and the court approved it, but the payment either has not been made or has not been entered in the court records; and (3) Is otherwise disqualified from all cases in which the judge made a plea offer to the defendant motorist during his/her prior employment as special prosecutor, including (a) where the plea offer was rejected by the motorist or the court and (b) where there may be a need to reduce, modify or vacate the conditions of a plea agreement which was previously approved by the judge's predecessor.

Opinion 23-124 Judicial candidates may reimburse a political party their proportionate share of the reasonable attorneys' fees actually incurred by the party in litigation related to their ballot status in a campaign.

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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.


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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.

Opinion 23-75 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 23-76 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?


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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, 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"?


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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.


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Formal and Informal Ethics Inquiries

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