June 13, 2000
The fact that the judge's spouse is a salaried insurance broker employed
by a company that places insurance on behalf of the employees of various
hospitals does not require the judge to exercise recusal in cases involving
the hospitals or the carriers with which such insurance has been placed.
22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1); 100.3(E)(1)(c).
The spouse of the inquiring judge is an insurance broker employed by a corporation that specializes in group insurance on behalf of the employees of several hospitals pursuant to contracts with the individual hospitals. The responsibilities of the spouse include placing automobile and homeowners insurance with various carriers. The inquiring judge seeks the advice of the Committee as to the ethics of "presiding over negligence cases where a defendant is insured by an insurance carrier with which my [spouse] places insurance or when a case involved is one of the contracted hospitals."
At issue is the applicability of section 100.3(E)(1)(c) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. That provision requires recusal where, among other things, . . . the judge's spouse . . . has an economic interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding or has any other interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding." 22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1)(c).
In our opinion, the employment of the spouse, as described, does not give rise to a situation that falls within subparagraph (c). The spouse is a salaried employee of the corporation which has contracted to place insurance on behalf of the employees of the hospitals. That fact does not give rise to an economic interest that the spouse has in a party to a negligence case pending before the judge. The outcome of any negligence case against one of the hospitals would not affect the spouse. Nor does the placing of automobile and homeowners insurance by the spouse with various insurance companies carry any danger that a proceeding involving a carrier or a party insured by such a carrier, is one "in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned." 22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1). In short, recusal is not required.