January 29, 2004
Digest: A judge who was previously employed as chief of police of a town police department within the court’s jurisdiction must disclose the prior employment and exercise recusal in all matters involving the police department that were pending as of the date the judge left such employment.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(A), 100.3(E)910(a)(ii); Opinions 97-08 (Vol. XV); 87-26 (Vol I).
A part-time town justice inquires whether the judge must disclose the judge’s prior employment as chief of police for a town police department which is located within the jurisdiction of the court, and whether recusal is required in police matters, and, if so, under what circumstances.
This Committee has previously addressed substantially similar questions. Most closely analogous to the situation presented in this inquiry is that addressed in Opinion 97-08 (Vol. XV) (see also, 87-26 [Vol. I] [disqualification by reason of prior employment as assistant district attorney]). Therein, the Committee addressed whether a judge who previously served as the deputy chief of a county branch of the Tort Division of the Corporation Counsel’s Office, with general supervisory authority over tort cases against the municipality that had been brought in the county where the judge was sitting, could preside over tort matters that were pending in the county office at the time the judge was employed. The Committee advised that “the crucial fact that the judge had general supervisory authority over all pending cases [while serving as deputy chief] * * * militates against the judge presiding over any cases against the municipality that were pending * * * during the judges prior employment. 22 NYCRR 100.2(A), 100.3(E)910(a)(ii), (b)(i).”
In the instant case, the judge inquires whether disclosure and recusal would be required in all matters involving the town police department from which the judge retired as chief. As a police chief is ultimately responsible for the actions and conduct of the officers under his or her direction, this Committee advises that with respect to those matters that were pending as of the date the judge left his/her employment with the Police Department the judge should disclose and recuse.