October 23, 2003
Digest: Neither a part-time judge who practices law, nor the judge’s law firm or any of its members may appear as attorneys in a matter that originated in the judge’s court.
Rule: Jud. Law §16; 22 NYCRR 100.2
The two inquiring judges, who serve as the town judges of the same court, are also partners in the same law firm. A personal client of the firm was arrested in the town and served with an appearance ticket. Upon receipt of the charges, both judges disqualified themselves. As a result of the disqualifications the matter will be transferred by the County Court to another local court. The judges ask whether another member of the law firm may represent the client in the court to which the case is transferred.
In the opinion of the Committee, the suggestion by the inquirers would not avoid the prohibition set forth in section 16 of the Judiciary Law. That section bars a judge from acting as attorney “in an action, claim matter, motion or proceeding originating in” the judge’s court. Notwithstanding the absence of judicial action other than disqualification and forwarding the matter to the County Court, the proceeding did originate in the judges’ court. Thus, neither judge may represent the client in that matter. In our view, this infirmity extends to the firm since presumably another member of the firm would be acting on behalf of the firm and the inquiring judges would be sharing in any fee that is earned. To allow that to occur, we believe, would constitute an appearance of impropriety. 22 NYCRR 100.2. Accordingly, we conclude that another member of the firm should not appear on behalf of the firm’s client in the matter that originated in the judges’ court.