June 9, 2005
Digest: (1) A judge sitting in a specialized tax certiorari and condemnation Part may meet with representatives of bar association tax certiorari and condemnation committees and other lawyers who regularly practice in the Part concerning improved operation of the Part and possible amendment of the Part rules.
(2) The judge may also may accept similar suggestions from assessors or the assessors’ association on behalf of its members, but such suggestions should be communicated through counsel.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2; 100.3(B)(6).
A full-time judge sitting in a specialized tax certiorari and condemnation Part inquires whether it is appropriate to meet separately with municipal assessors, lawyers practicing in the Part and related bar association committees for the purpose of soliciting suggestions for improving the efficient operation of the Part and potential update or amendment of the judge’s Part rules. Specifically, the judge asks about meeting with attorneys who regularly practice in the Part, members of the tax certiorari and condemnation committees of the various bar associations and/or members of or counsel to the local assessors’ association, on behalf of its members.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct require a judge to maintain the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and prohibit the initiation or consideration of ex parte communications concerning a pending or impending matter. 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2; 100.3(B)(6). This judge’s initiative, to solicit input from individuals who regularly appear before the judge, concerning the Part and amendments to the Part rules generally, would not reflect adversely on the judge’s independence or impartiality, nor would these communications concern specific pending or impending matters. Therefore, this Committee sees no ethical impediment to the inquiring judge effectuating the initiative. However, the Committee does recommend that, in order to minimize the risk of potential ex parte communications or other problems arising out of the contact with the judge, that the judge accept suggestions for rule changes and efficient case management from counsel to the municipalities or counsel to the assessors’ association rather than individual Assessors or representatives of the Assessors’ association who might regularly appear as parties in proceedings before the judge.