September 21, 2009
Dear Justice :
This responds to your inquiry (09-115) asking whether it is ethically permissible for your firm to act as outside counsel for the village in which you sit as a part-time justice, where the village is named as a defendant in state or federal court. You indicate you would not be involved in any of the cases handled by the firm for the village, you would be insulated from those matters, and would forego any part of the fee earned from such work. The village has an attorney, deputy and special prosecutors for other matters.
A part-time attorney judge may accept private employment provided the employment is not incompatible with judicial office and does not conflict or interfere with the proper performance of the judge’s duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.6[B]). Thus, this Committee has advised that a part-time village justice may be employed by the same municipality as defense counsel in a federal civil rights action and that a part-time city court judge may represent the city in a contract matter (see Opinions 98-117 and 93-111, enclosed for your convenience).
In view of these prior opinions, the Committee concludes that your law firm may represent the village in the matters described herein, that there is no need for you to be insulated from these cases, and, further, you need not forego any portion of a fee earned from such work.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow
Justice of the Supreme Court (Ret.)