February 26, 2014
This responds to your inquiry (13-173) asking whether you have an ethical obligation to report an unidentified, unlicensed law school graduate who allegedly assisted, for remuneration, a pro se litigant in preparing a memorandum of law in support of a motion.
The Committee has generally advised judges that they must determine whether there is a substantial likelihood that an attorney committed a substantial violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[D]); Opinion 10-85 [Amended]). However, a judge has no obligation to investigate an attorney’s misconduct (see Opinions 13-127) or to ascertain the identity of an attorney who may have engaged in misconduct (see Opinion 10-36). Here, the law graduate is neither identified nor an attorney admitted to the bar. Therefore, you are not required to determine the identity of the law student. And, as the Committee has consistently advised that the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not require a judge to report criminal activity or other misconduct by a non-lawyer (see e.g. Opinion 06-13), you are not required to report the law school graduate’s alleged misconduct, but you may do so solely within your discretion.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 13-127; 10-204; 10-85 (Amended); 10-36; and 06-13 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)