Digest: It is not ethically improper for a Family Court judge to permit his/her court attorney to accept an award from a women’s justice center affiliated with a law school of which the court attorney is a graduate, even though the attorneys and law students from the center appear in Family Court on behalf of petitioners.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(C); Opinion 00-92 (Vol.XIX).
A Family Court judge states that the court attorney assigned to the judge has been invited to be honored, along with others, at the annual fund-raising dinner of a women’s justice center affiliated with the law school from which the court attorney was graduated. Attorneys and law students from the center appear on behalf of petitioners in Family Court. The judge asks whether the court attorney may attend and accept the honor.
In our opinion there is no rule of judicial conduct that requires the judge to direct the court attorney not to attend or accept the award. It may well be that the judge could not accept such an award from this organization. See, e.g. Opinion 00-92 (Vol. XIX), [a Family Court judge may not accept an award from a domestic violence program that provides support and counseling to petitioners in Family Court proceedings.] But, this does not mean that a court attorney is similarly bound. That is, the fact that acceptance by a judge of such an award might reflect adversely on the judge’s impartiality, does not support the conclusion that an identical consequence flows from the fact that it is the judge’s court attorney who is receiving the award. That fact alone, in our view, would not “convey the impression that [the court attorney] is in a special position to influence the judge.” 22 NYCRR 100.2(C). Accordingly, the judge is not obligated to prohibit the court attorney from accepting the award.