December 12, 2013
Digest: A judge may swear in an attorney to another state’s bar, where the other state’s board of bar examiners lists judges as one of several categories of acceptable witnesses.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.2(C); Opinion 12-10.
The inquiring full-time judge asks whether he/she may, at the request of an intern from a public law office who has previously appeared before the judge, “swear [the intern] in as an attorney to” another state’s bar. The inquiring judge includes a copy of a cover letter from the other state’s board of bar examiners which explains the procedures and provides the form on which the judge would witness the attorney’s oath of office. The cover letter states that the intern has passed the bar examination and is eligible to be sworn in and that “[a]ny notary public, judge, or active attorney in the United States or one of its jurisdictions may administer the oath.”
A judge must always 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]). A judge may not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others and may not testify voluntarily as a character witness (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).
The Committee has advised that a judge may witness and authenticate a relative’s signature on a foreign pension document, where the document lists “judges” as one of several categories of acceptable witnesses (see Opinion 12-10). In Opinion 12-10, the Committee noted that the judge’s role was “to witness his/her relative’s signature and validate, for the foreign country’s military pension, the identity of the judge’s relative. The judge will be merely attesting to facts within his/her personal knowledge and observation ...” (id.).
In the Committee’s view, the judge’s proposed role in administering another state’s “attorney’s oath” to an intern is also permissible, as the other state’s board of bar examiners lists “judge” as one of several categories of acceptable individuals to administer and witness the oath, and the judge will be merely attesting to facts within his/her personal knowledge and observation (see id.). It is therefore permissible.