June 4, 2012
This responds to your inquiry (12-83) asking whether it is ethically permissible for you and other supervising judges in the Family Court to attend a series of internal meetings of a local social services agency. These meetings are part of a program at which “individual child protective cases for which [the agency] has responsibility both pre-litigation and in litigation are discussed in detail.” You indicate that you do not preside over any child protective cases, but some of the other supervising judges do.
The Committee has previously advised that a judge’s participation in these types of meetings may well cast doubt upon a judge’s impartiality, particularly where only one set of interests involved in Family Court matters is represented and where attendees will participate in discussions of substantive and procedural legal issues. This is so even though the agency has agreed to avoid discussing any pending cases or any cases over which those judges in attendance would preside.
Enclosed, for your convenience, is Joint Opinion 06-154/06-167 which addresses this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)