September 11, 2008
Digest: The fact that a judge is a certified emergency medical technician involved in transporting patients to a local health care facility or a local hospital for treatment; receives his/her own health care from the same health care facility and hospital; and is friends with certain doctors and nurses employed at both entities: 1) does not per se require the judge to disqualify him/herself in cases where the same health care facility or hospital is involved, as long as the judge believes that he/she can be impartial, and 2) does not require the judge to disclose such contacts in such cases.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.3(E)(1); 100.3(E)(1)(a)-(g); Opinion 07-35; 07-10; 03-11.
A full-time judge who is a certified emergency medical technician advises that he/she is involved in transporting patients to a local health care facility and a local hospital for treatment; receives his/her personal health care from the same facility and hospital; and is friends with certain doctors and nurses employed at the same facility and hospital. The judge owns no stock in and is not on the board of either entity. The judge asks whether, due to the contacts he/she has with these medical institutions, he/she must disqualify him/herself and/or disclose the nature of these contacts when either institution is involved in a case in his/her court.
A judge must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2), and must always act in a way that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). Therefore, a judge must disqualify him/herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E]).
In the present inquiry, it is the Committee’s view that the inquiring judge’s contacts with the health care facility and the hospital as an emergency medical technician, as a patient and as a social friend with certain doctors and nurses employed by such institutions do not per se create an appearance of impropriety should either institution be involved in a case before the judge (cf. Opinion 03-11). Therefore, in the absence of any basis for mandatory disqualification (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E][a]-[g]), and, assuming the judge can be impartial, he/she need not disqualify him/herself in a case where either institution is involved as a party (see Opinions 07-35; 07-10), nor disclose his/her contacts with either institution in such cases. However, the judge must consider any additional factor in a particular case that would warrant a different result (e.g., if the judge is currently undergoing, or has recently received treatment at the time a proceeding is pending wherein the health care facility or hospital appears as a party).