June 18, 2013
This responds to your inquiry (12-174) asking if you must disclose that your sixth degree relative is a high ranking official in a county agency, or disqualify yourself, when caseworkers subject to your relative’s oversight appear in cases before you. You advise that you and your relative exchange holiday greeting cards and that you both attend occasional family events such as weddings and funerals, but that otherwise you and your relative do not socialize together.
All judges must avoid even the appearance of impropriety (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]). Therefore, a judge must disqualify him/herself when the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E]).
The Committee previously has advised that a judge who is a District Attorney’s fifth degree relative need not disclose or exercise recusal when an assistant district attorney or other member of the District Attorney’s staff appears as long as the judge believes that he/she can be fair and impartial (see Opinion 07-06). Subject to the same qualification, you also are not required to disclose that your sixth degree relative is a high ranking official in a county agency, or to disqualify yourself, when the caseworkers subject to your relative’s oversight appear in your court.
I have enclosed Opinion 07-06 for your convenience.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)