April 19, 2007
Digest: A part-time City Court Judge may share private law office space with an attorney who is a part-time Assistant Public Defender and part-time Assistant City Attorney, and may continue to preside over cases handled by other Assistant Public Defenders and other Assistant City Attorneys, as long as the attorney with whom the judge shares office space is not involved in the matter.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.6(B)(3); Opinions 98-53 (Vol. XVI); 90-43 (Vol. V); 89-09
A part-time City Court Judge who is permitted to practice law would like to share private law office space with another attorney, who serves as an Assistant Public Defender in the county and an Assistant City Attorney for the city in which the inquirer serves as judge. There would be no formal practice association beyond the mere sharing of office space. The duties of the office-sharing attorney as Assistant Public Defender and Assistant City Attorney do not include appearances at the inquirer’s court. The inquiring judge states that the office-sharing attorney would not appear at all in the City Court if they were to share office space. The inquirer asks whether this office-sharing arrangement is permissible, and whether he/she would be required to recuse himself/herself when other attorneys from the Office of the Public Defender or the Office of the City Attorney appear before him/her.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct state that a judge who is permitted to practice law shall not permit his/her partners or associates to practice law in the court in which he/she is a judge. 22 NYCRR 100.6(B)(3).
This Committee has previously determined that a part-time judge may share office space with an Assistant Public Defender and may continue to preside over cases in which other Assistant Public Defenders appear, as long as the office-sharing attorney is not involved in the matter. Opinions 90-43 (Vol. V); 89-09 (Vol. III). The judge need not disclose the office-sharing relationship. The reasoning of those opinions also applies to a part-time judge who wishes to share space under similar circumstances with an Assistant City Attorney.
The Committee notes, however, that the office-sharing arrangement could not be continued, if the attorney were to be promoted to City Attorney or Public Defender. Opinion 98-53 (Vol. XVI).