September 29, 2009
This responds to your inquiry (09-83) in which you ask several questions regarding whether your law partner may practice in the City Court in which you preside and whether you are ethically prohibited from participating in an interview, making charitable donations, administering an oath of office in a judicial robe, and speaking in public about matters of private concerns.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibit your law partner from appearing before you or in your court before another judge (see 22 NYCRR 100.6[B]; see also Judiciary Law §471). This prohibition applies even if your law partner were to appear as a conflict defender before the other City Court Judge.
You may participate in a local newspaper interview regarding your tenure on the bench provided you do not discuss any pending or impending cases and you do not indicate any predisposition as to how you would rule on a particular issue. Enclosed, for your convenience, are Joint Opinion 90-123/90-133, and Opinion 04-117, and 88-106 which discuss this issue.
Judges are not prohibited from making charitable contributions. However, while there is no cap placed on such a donation, a judge should not make so large a contribution as to cast doubt on his/her ability to act impartially with respect to issues, cases or parties. Enclosed, for your convenience, is Opinion 04-140, which discusses this issue.
You may administer the oath of office in your judicial robe as you would be performing a duty specific to a person holding judicial office. Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 01-42 and 89-145, which collectively address this issue.
Finally, as a part-time judge, you may speak in public and express your personal views as a private citizen whose personal interests are affected. However, you may not use or refer to your judicial status in advancing those personal interests. Enclosed for your convenience are Opinions 06-93; 04-24; and 97-36, which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow
Justice of the Supreme Court (Ret.)