Judicial Ethics Opinions

Judicial Ethics Opinion 17-48

The inquiring part-time attorney judge must report to the Commission on Judicial Conduct that another judge, while presiding over a case, threatened to file a disciplinary complaint against the inquirer unless the inquirer's client settled the case for a particular sum.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-178

A judicial association may not submit an amicus brief to the Court of Appeals in a pending appeal to express its members' concern, as trial judges, about the practical effects of a recent Appellate Division decision that trial judges lack statutory authority to take a particular action in connection with sentencing. The judicial association and/or individual judges may instead propose changes to applicable statutes which affect sentencing procedures in their courts. However, if it is not possible to advocate for the desired statutory change without publicly commenting on a specific, identifiable case, they must wait until the case is completely resolved.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-164

A new full-time judge may continue to serve as a receiver in foreclosure pursuant to an appointment received before assuming the bench, provided his/her duties are ministerial in nature and completed within one year, if possible.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 17-60

An announcement by the outgoing political party chair that next year's party meeting will be held "in May 2018" is not sufficiently definite and reliable for judicial candidates to calculate the start of their window period. They may therefore assume that this year's official date will be used again in 2018 and count back nine months from that presumed date.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-175

While a judge need not separately scrutinize all pleadings to determine whether his/her client is the issuing officer, the judge must not take a guilty plea, either by mail or in person, if the client's role as issuing officer is readily available, such as in those instances where the officer's name appears on the ticket.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 17-04

A judge may not attend a three-day human trafficking seminar sponsored by federal prosecutorial and law enforcement agencies, where the program will focus primarily on strategies for effective prosecution.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 17-38

An opinion on judges' participation in political speech, including participating in marches, demonstrations or rallies; or publicly expressing an opinion on a pending federal executive branch appointment.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-157

A full-time judge (1) may informally refer at-risk youth to religious or secular educational programs, assuming he/she does not frequently preside in matters involving at-risk youth and such programs do not appear before the judge or accept court referrals; (2) may serve as a paramedic with a local volunteer ambulance corps; (3) may not serve on the board of a regional emergency medical services council; and (4) may participate in a documentary film concerning his/her volunteer activities if it is produced by a not-for-profit entity, but may not participate in a commercially produced documentary.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-154

A judge may, but is not required to, disclose his/her habitability concerns to a local code enforcement officer. If the judge does so, he/she may not preside over the resulting proceeding, and therefore may not issue a warrant for the code enforcement officer to enter the premises.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-156

A judge should not send a thank you note in response to a laudatory ex parte letter from an attorney who recently appeared before the judge.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-143

Where a part-time lawyer judge's law practice associate is representing a client in another court in the same county before another part-time lawyer judge, the judge may not personally participate in the representation by meeting with the client or discussing the case with opposing counsel, even if such activities will take place away from the courthouse. The judge may nonetheless directly supervise a subordinate attorney who is representing the law practice's clients in such matters, provided such supervision takes place in private, without involvement of the client, opposing parties or counsel, or the court in which the matter is heard.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-144

A judge whose law clerk becomes the District Attorney is disqualified, subject to remittal where permitted, from presiding in cases involving the DA's office for one year, even if the judge is presiding in Veterans Court. To the extent lawful, practical and appropriate, it is ethically permissible to streamline the remittal process by incorporating the requisite disclosures and consents into the parties' and their counsel's written agreement to transfer the case to Veterans Court.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-135

A judge may publicly advocate for a change in the Penal Law by writing to executive and legislative bodies and/or officials, as well as other potentially interested parties, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct. The judge need not inform local prosecutors or defense counsel of these activities.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-179

A judge may be a member of an all-female volunteer EMT service which responds to calls from women in a particular faith community who need emergency care, where the service was established to expand opportunities for women in the community and to preserve significant religious or cultural values of legitimate common interest to community members. However, a judge may not serve as director of the entity if that role requires him/her to personally engage in fund-raising and/or recruitment activities.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-160

A part-time judge whose first-degree relative is the police chief for the municipality where the judge presides is disqualified in any matter involving the municipal police department or its officers, subject to remittal where appropriate.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-159

A judge who is dissatisfied with an attorney's explanation of the propriety of his/her conduct in connection with a proposed default divorce decree must determine, based on the facts and circumstances known to the judge, whether there is a substantial likelihood that the attorney's actions constitute a substantial violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and, if so, must take appropriate action. If the judge determines in good faith that he/she is legally permitted and/or legally required to sign the decrees, he/she may do so without violating the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, assuming he/she can be fair and impartial and is not otherwise disqualified from presiding in matters involving the attorney.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-153

A trial judge whose minor child is participating in a charitable fund-raiser may personally solicit funds from family members and fellow judges not subject to his/her supervision, provided he/she does not use or invoke his/her judicial title or status in doing so. A judge may not personally solicit funds from friends or neighbors. A judge may, in his/her capacity as a parent, accompany his/her minor child as the child solicits funds from friends or neighbors, but may not otherwise assist or participate in the solicitation.

Judicial Ethics Opinion 16-133

A judge may preside in matters involving an attorney who hosted a single fund-raiser for the judge's law clerk's election campaign, but must insulate the law clerk and disclose the insulation during the campaign. This obligation ends on Election Day.