June 23, 2008
This responds to your recent inquiry (08-97) asking whether you are ethically obligated to disclose a telephone conversation by a political candidate running against a member of the assembly who is associated with a law firm engaged in a matter pending before you. You indicate that the member of the assembly is high-profile, and the pending matter has been the subject of recent media attention.
This Committee has advised it was necessary for the judge to notify the parties when a councilman met with the judge attempting to discuss a pending custody case. It also advised that the judge, upon any objection, should exercise his her discretion in deciding whether to recuse him/herself (see Opinion 92-81).
However, in the circumstances you describe, there was no meeting and you immediately terminated the phone conversation before anything of substance was said. Since nothing was discussed “concern[ing] a pending or impending proceeding” (22 NYCRR 100.3[B]), there is no basis to question your impartiality regarding the contact (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[C]). Thus, the Committee concludes that you need not report the conversation to the parties or attorneys.
George D. Marlow
Justice of the Supreme Court