Judicial Ethics Opinions

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-153

A judge may not permit a bar association to place collection bins for a charitable clothing drive within a courtroom. If the court is located inside a multi-use building, the judge may permit the bar association to place such bins in the building's common area.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-177

A full-time judge may not accept employment as part-time treasurer of the board of directors of a special district library financed by the local municipality.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-106

Under the circumstances presented, the judge need not disclose a brief and non-substantive conversation with counsel at a bar association function, and both the judge and his/her law clerk may continue to conduct settlement conferences in the case.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-171

A judge is not disqualified from presiding when the court clerk's second degree relative appears as an attorney but must insulate the court clerk from his/her relative's cases.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-85

A judge may review a defendant's driving history before accepting or rejecting a proposed plea agreement if he/she is authorized by law to do so.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-96

The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not prohibit a judge from receiving, as part of an equitable distribution, a percentage of the future legal fees earned by his/her former spouse upon the settlement or verdict of any cases deemed part of the former spouse's law practice.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-03

A judge may not chair a committee which informs members of a religious congregation of their membership fees, and may not permit his/her name to be listed as committee chair in certain associated written materials that describe such fees.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-177

A full-time judge may not accept employment as part-time treasurer of the board of directors of a special district library financed by the local municipality.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-06

A town or village justice whose first-degree relative is a social worker without supervisory responsibilities in the local probation department's domestic violence division (1) is disqualified, subject to remittal where available, from all cases in which his/her relative is personally involved, but (2) need not disclose the familial relationship in other matters involving the probation department and/or allegations of domestic violence, provided that his/her relative is not personally involved in the matter.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-196

It would be improper for a judge who presides in medical malpractice cases to accept a private, "in-house" speaking engagement for the board of trustees of a medical facility that regularly appears before the judge.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-180

A judge who regularly refers litigants to a residential substance abuse treatment facility may write a letter supporting the facility's application to become a participating service provider for insurance purposes.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-182

A judge may permit a newly elected state official to use a ceremonial courtroom for his/her swearing-in ceremony.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-05

A judge need not disclose that his/her spouse works for a municipal councilperson as an administrative assistant even though the spouse schedules constituent appointments with a pro bono attorney who provides assistance and advice to litigants who appear in the judge's court.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-18

A judge may preside in cases of protestors, arrested on the same charges as the judge's second-degree relatives, where the judge's relatives are not parties and are unlikely to be material witnesses, provided the judge can be fair and impartial.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-67

Under the totality of the specific circumstances presented, a judge who is a former prosecutor should not preside in a case involving a particular individual's claim of actual innocence.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-195

Whether a part-time judge may continue to practice law, while he/she is serving temporarily as a full-time judge pursuant to Uniform City Court Act §2104(e)(2), depends on whether the judge is legally a full-time judge during that period. It thus presents a legal question beyond the jurisdiction of the Advisory committee on Judicial Ethics.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-04

An incumbent judge's public announcement that he/she will retire from the bench on a specific date, when coupled with an additional significant and reliable affirmative step to effectuate his/her retirement, is sufficient to create a known judicial vacancy for the purpose of determining when the window period opens and individuals may publicly announce their interest in seeking election to the position.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-189

Under the specific circumstances presented, where a judge has issued a written decision indicating the judge's impartiality has been compromised in a new case involving a particular litigant, based on the litigant's recent disparaging remarks about the judge in connection with a recently concluded case, the judge must disqualify him/herself from all cases involving the litigant, including in any post-judgment proceedings in the recently concluded case, and the disqualification is not subject to remittal.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-180

A judge who regularly refers litigants to a residential substance abuse treatment facility may write a letter supporting the facility's application to become a participating service provider for insurance purposes.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-183

A judge fluent in a foreign language may serve as an uncompensated interpreter for a friend during a business meeting where the judge will not be identified as a judge and will not provide legal advice.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-01

A non-judge who is seeking election or appointment to judicial office may remain employed as a police officer until he/she takes and files his/her oath of office as a judge.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 15-02

A judge is disqualified in DWI cases involving blood drawn at a hospital where, in the judge's capacity as a physician, he/she is responsible for regulatory compliance with the hospital's emergency department phlebotomy services.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-169

A judge may preside in matters involving the law firm that employs the spouse and first-degree relative of a principal court attorney who works exclusively for the judge, but must insulate the court attorney from the firm's cases and disclose the insulation. Where the judge determines that a party is legally in default, the judge need not disclose such insulation to the defaulting party, and need not attempt to discern whether a defaulting party is represented by counsel.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-175

Town or village justices, either individually or as magistrates' association members, must not participate in the design or implementation of a county-wide traffic diversion program.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-137

A judge may ethically delegate to a court clerk the function of researching whether or not a litigant's address is located within a particular geographic boundary. However, the determination that the court does not have jurisdiction over a matter and that the filed papers may be refused or dismissed on jurisdictional grounds is a non-delegable judicial function

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-139

A judge may publicly express his/her views on how certain proposed transit changes will affect indigent court users and their ability to comply with court-ordered training, treatment, and probation, as these issues directly implicate the law, the legal system and the administration of justice

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-192

A supervising judge, who handles a trial assignment part and is disqualified from presiding in cases where certain attorneys appear, must disqualify him/herself from assigning those cases if the judge must exercise his/her discretion in making the assignment

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-136

A part-time judge may not accept employment as a staff attorney with Legal Aid in the same county where the judge presides, where the proposed employment would unduly disrupt court operations.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-136

A part-time judge may not accept employment as a staff attorney with Legal Aid in the same county where the judge presides, where the proposed employment would unduly disrupt court operations.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-100

Under the circumstances described, a Surrogate may, in his/her discretion, participate in meetings with the local public administrator and court personnel to the extent he/she deems necessary to discharge his/her statutory oversight functions.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-130

When a candidate's fund-raising publication uses a photograph that includes a judge's image, and the related verbiage does not imply the judge is endorsing or soliciting funds for the candidate, the judge does not have an affirmative obligation to object, but may do so.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-120

A village justice may preside in a criminal case where the defendant and the alleged victim are attorneys who practice in the village court, and the prosecutor is the town attorney for a neighboring town, provided the judge concludes he/she can be fair and impartial.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-150

A judge who reported an attorney to a grievance committee is thereafter disqualified from signing a proposed order the same attorney submitted in an unrelated matter, unless the judge determines the proposed order is perfectly identical to the judge's oral order in the case, which was issued a year before the judge reported the attorney.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-148

A judge whose window period for his/her unsuccessful 2014 Supreme Court campaign will overlap with the window period for the upcoming 2015 Supreme Court campaign (1) may not roll over funds from one campaign to the next but must establish a new campaign account for the 2015 campaign; (2) may use the remaining 2014 campaign funds for all permissible purposes relating to his/her 2014 campaign during the remainder of the 2014 window period, including generically useful purchases which could be used for either campaign; and (3) at the conclusion of his/her 2014 window period, must dispose of any remaining 2014 campaign funds in accordance with applicable rules and opinions.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-103

A full-time city court judge who presides outside the City of New York may become a notary public.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-103

A judge is not ethically required to take any action in discharge of his/her disciplinary responsibilities, where the judge's sole source of knowledge of wrongdoing on the part of an attorney is the fact that the attorney has agreed to an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal of certain charges against the attorney. Also, a judge may attest to and affirm facts within his/her personal knowledge and observation, including the judge's recollection of witnessing the execution of a family member's testamentary instrument, and the judge's recognition of certain signatures or handwriting on the instrument.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-129(A)

A judicial hearing officer may serve as a hearing officer for the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, provided such service is legally permissible.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-93

A judge (1) may be honored as a distinguished alumnus/alumna at a college's fundraising event, provided the judge's participation is not advertised prior to the event and the judge's name is not listed in advance on invitations or announcements; (2) may permit the college to include information about the judge in a journal that will be distributed to guests during (but not before) the event; (3) may participate in the college's recruitment efforts by participating in a video recording in which the judge will discuss his/her memories of the college and its impact on his/her career and provide a message to this year's graduates; (4) may permit the college to play the video recording during the gala fundraising event and thereafter post it on the college's website, provided the video is used for general promotion of the college and/or recruitment of students, but not fundraising.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-51

For two years after entry of judgment in the trial phase of a judge's second-degree relative's criminal proceedings, provided the judge determines he/she can be fair and impartial, disclosure is mandated in lieu of disqualification when any prosecutor or defender who was personally involved at the trial phase appears before the judge on unrelated matters. If, after disclosure, a party objects to the judge presiding, the judge has discretion whether to recuse after considering all relevant factors. After the two-year period ends, the judge is not ethically required to disclose or recuse when these attorneys appear, provided he/she can be fair and impartial.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-80

A part-time lawyer/judge may not assist a longtime client and family friend with a case pending before another part-time lawyer/judge in the same county.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-132

A judge must not participate in a not-for-profit charitable organization's fundraising challenge, where each participant is required to publicize his/her own participation and publicly solicit other participants. However, a judge may make contributions to the organization, provided that he/she does so without personally soliciting funds or otherwise promoting the fundraiser.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-90

A judge's social relationship with the deputy director of a legal services organization does not, alone, require disqualification or disclosure when the deputy director's subordinates appear before the judge.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-81

Neither disqualification nor disclosure is required solely because a party appearing before the judge is the judge's judicial colleague's spouse.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-119

Under the circumstances presented, a judge may use official court stationery for correspondence in the judge's pro se proceeding to expunge a frivolous multi-million dollar lien which a litigant appearing before the judge filed against the judge's property.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-69

It is ethically permissible for a judge to suggest that his/her wedding guests consider contributing to a charity of their choice in lieu of giving a wedding gift where the judge also asks the guests to omit any reference to his/her judicial title when sending the donation.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-73

A judge may write an unsolicited letter to a federal executive branch employee expressing appreciation for the employee's professionalism, based on the judge's personal knowledge, and may use his/her judicial stationery marked "personal and unofficial."

Judicial Ethics Opinion 14-66

A part-time judge who is also a high-level employee of the county government: (1) may allocate funds annually to the probation department's probation employment program, provided it does not result in the judge's frequent disqualification; (2) must not personally participate in the solicitation of funds, but may manage other county employees who will engage in such solicitations on behalf of the county office or department for which the judge works; and (3) may meet with elected officials to advocate for maintenance of services to a particular category of individuals, subject to certain limitations.