January 27-28, 2010
Digest: A town justice may permit the justice court clerk to also serve as the Receiver of Taxes for the same town where the town justice presides.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); Opinions 07-196; 98-113 (Vol. XVII); 90-14 (Vol. V).
A part-time town justice asks whether it is permissible for the town’s elected Receiver of Taxes to serve simultaneously as the town justice court clerk. The judge advises that over the past twenty-seven years, he/she has never had occasion to deal with any matter involving the Town Assessor or his/her department and does not anticipate any cases involving the Receiver of Taxes or his/her office.
A judge must avoid impropriety and its appearance in all the judge’s activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always act to promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]).
The Committee previously has advised that a part-time town justice may also serve on the Board of Assessment Review for the town where he/she presides, because appeals from the board’s decisions are heard by a state-appointed hearing officer and never by the town justice (see Opinion 90-14 [Vol. V]). The Committee also has advised that there would be no appearance of impropriety were a part-time town justice to serve also as assistant assessor for the town where he/she presides as the assessor’s matters are not likely to come before town court. (see Opinion 98-113 [Vol. XVII]).
Accordingly, it is not impermissible for the town justice court clerk to also serve as the Receiver of Taxes for the same town where the justice court is located (see Opinion 07-196 [in the absence of any legal incompatibility in the positions, a town justice may allow a full-time bookkeeper, office manager and receptionist for the town to also serve as town court clerk]).