September 12, 2013
Digest: A judge need not disqualify him/herself when a litigant who is the niece/nephew (by marriage) of the judge’s first cousin (by marriage) appears in the judge’s court.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.0(C); 100.3(E)(1)(d); Opinions 11-49; 09-189; 00-89.
A judge asks whether he/she must disqualify him/herself when a defendant, who is the judge’s “spouse’s parent’s sibling’s child’s spouse’s sibling’s child,” appears in the judge’s court.
A judge must disqualify him/herself when the judge knows he/she is related to a party appearing in the judge’s court, by blood or marriage, within the sixth degree of relationship (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E][d]. The degree of relationship is calculated according to the civil law system (see 22 NYCRR 100.0[C]).
The Committee previously has advised that a judge need not disqualify him/herself when the defendant appearing in the judge’s court is the judge’s son/daughter-in-law’s sibling (see Opinion 11-49) or the niece/nephew of the judge’s aunt/uncle by marriage (Opinion 09-189), as these individuals are not related to the judge by either blood or marriage. The Committee also has advised that a judge is not prohibited from appointing the judge’s spouse’s sibling’s spouse’s step-sibling’s child to serve as a lawyer in Family Court because he/she is not a person related to the judge within the sixth degree of relationship (see Opinion 00-89). In each case, neither the judge nor the judge’s spouse shares a common ancestor with the individual in question. Therefore, neither the judge nor the judge’s spouse is related to the individual in question for purposes of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.
Similarly, the individual you describe nor his/her spouse shares a common ancestor with either you or your spouse. Therefore, he/she is not related to either of you by blood or marriage within the meaning of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, and you are not required to disqualify yourself when he/she appears in your court.