Judicial Ethics Opinions

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-30

Where the new Public Defender preliminarily and briefly represented a judge in a disciplinary proceeding one year ago as a private attorney, the judge may continue to preside over matters involving assistant public defenders, provided the judge can be fair and impartial. The judge need not disclose the prior, non-substantive representation when the assistant public defenders appear.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-188

The committee cannot suspend the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct or issue legal opinions interpreting the state and federal constitutions. On request for reconsideration, the committee reaffirms its prior opinions advising that a judge may not take part in certain public activities regarding redistricting.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-197(B)

A town or village justice may not assist the district attorney by contacting each prosecution witness, complainant and police officer concerning their upcoming court appearances.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-104

A judge may permit a nonprofit educational organization to use his/her name and honorific when listing the judge as a volunteer in documents that are circulated within the organization, where other volunteers are also listed with their titles, and the documents will not be used for fundraising.

Judicial Ethics Joint Opinion 15-138/15-144/15-166

Three judges request guidance on their disciplinary duties, if any, based solely on second- or third-hand reports of allegedly improper conduct by an attorney or another judge.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-132

A judge may hire his/her current law clerk's spouse as the judge's secretary, provided the spouse is qualified for such appointment.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-11

A judge who is a defendant in a bank's foreclosure action in an individual and fiduciary capacity may nonetheless preside over an unrelated action in which a party has subpoenaed records from the bank, including a party's motions to quash the subpoena, provided the bank is not a party to the action before the judge but is only a stakeholder which has not appeared or taken a position regarding the subpoena.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-128

A full-time judge whose former law partner is temporarily unavailable for medical reasons may accept and deposit fees, issue checks to clients and the firm and pay expenses as necessary to wind up the law firm's affairs, until the partner recovers or new counsel is hired but may not use law firm letterhead after assuming judicial office.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-119

Where a county court judge is aware a town justice presided over an arraignment and then requested the matter be transferred due to a purported conflict, but lacks relevant details of the purported conflict, the judge need not take any further action.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-122

A judge may not accept a gift of a food platter from a former judge, now practicing in the judge's court, or from a bar group on the former judge's behalf.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-100

A judicial association may respond to public criticism of a judge for making statements about a juror in a written decision, provided that the response does not involve comment on a pending or impending proceeding, and subject to certain additional limitations.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-134

A full-time principal law clerk who is a part-time SCAR hearing officer (1) may not run for or serve as a delegate to a political party's judicial nominating convention; (2) may apply for and become a notary public; and (3) may not circulate nominating petitions except during his/her window period as a candidate for election to judicial office, and then only if his/her own name is on the petition.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-120

A judge may not join in an advertising campaign intended to lobby political support and funding for union contract renewals for his/her alma mater.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-115

A town judge may permit a court clerk, who was previously employed as the local police chief's confidential secretary, to meet with the police department and town administration and explain notes the court clerk made during his/her prior employment.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-11

A judge who is a defendant in a bank's foreclosure action in an individual and fiduciary capacity may nonetheless preside over an unrelated action in which a party has subpoenaed records from the bank, including a party's motions to quash the subpoena, provided the bank is not a party to the action before the judge but is only a stakeholder which has not appeared or taken a position regarding the subpoena.

Judicial Ethics Joint Opinion 15-138/15-144/15-166

Where a judge has no direct personal knowledge whatsoever about purported misconduct of another judge or attorney, he/she has particularly wide discretion to make a threshold decision, based on information the judge has already received, of whether there is a "substantial likelihood" of a substantial violation under all the circumstances currently known to him/her.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-89

Where a nonprofit organization's regular letterhead does not include the names of the organization's directors, a judge who learns that all the directors were listed on an invitation to the organization's upcoming fundraiser must advise the organization in writing not to list the judge's name on invitations to fundraising events. Absent any additional circumstances rendering the judge's appearance at the event improper, the judge may thereafter attend the event.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-61

A judge may not engage in a panel program about a recent decision if the time to appeal has not expired, as the occasion would call for impermissible public comment by the judge; and an attorney who argued the case before the judge is a fellow panelist.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-167

A judicial candidate, who has received a political organization's statement of costs incurred on behalf of his/her campaign, has no affirmative duty to investigate the accuracy of the statement. However, where the statement is plainly an unreliable, advance estimate of the actual costs ultimately incurred on the candidate's behalf, or is otherwise clearly inaccurate on its face, the candidate must request a revised statement of actual costs incurred by the organization.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-129(B)

A judicial hearing officer, designated to the JHO panel for certain courts, may nonetheless prepare and argue appeals from decisions in those courts, subject to the limitations of Part 122.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-93

A judge may serve as a panelist in a local college's program on perceptions and realities of the criminal justice system, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-86

The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not require disclosure or disqualification solely because an attorney appearing before a part-time lawyer judge is the sibling of the judge's law firm associate.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-77

A judge may contribute to Planned Parenthood, except if the funds are for a political action committee or other political arm of the organization.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-59

A part-time judge who also works for a financial institution need not disqualify him/herself when his/her non-judicial employer's landlord appears in court.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-212

A judge need not disqualify him/herself from cases involving lawyers who sought to contribute to the judge's spouse's recent political campaign, provided the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-159

A town justice may consent to the appointment of his/her first-degree relative as town court clerk and permit his/her relative to continue full-time clerical employment with a private law firm that appears in the court twice a year, provided the town justice disqualifies him/herself from all matters involving the relative's law firm employer.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-155

A judge is not disqualified from presiding in a matter where the judge and his/her spouse own a de minimis interest in large corporations that are parties in the matter, nor need the judge disclose such de minimis interest(s), provided he/she can be fair and impartial.

Judicial Ethics Opinion

On these facts, a court attorney referee, who advised and spoke with the referring judge about attorney misconduct that was revealed during proceedings before the referee resulting in a lawyer disciplinary complaint, must be held to the same standard as if he/she had personally filed the complaint.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-63

A judge, "of counsel" to a law firm five years ago and its tenant a decade ago, may appoint a partner of the firm to Part 36 fiduciary appointments, provided all the judge's ties with the firm are completely severed for over two years from the final termination of such business/financial relationships.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-182

Provided the enumerated extra–judicial activities do not interfere with the judge's regular judicial duties, a full-time judge who has written and published a book may (1) appear throughout the United States to promote his/her book, (2) conduct book signings and speak at bookstores, law schools, and bar associations in New York and elsewhere, and (3) permit copies of the book to be available for purchase at such events.