February 5, 2015
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
This responds to your inquiry (14-174) asking if you may preside in a foreclosure case where the law firm representing the bank employs your Principal Law Clerk’s fourth degree relative. It is your understanding that the law firm is large and there is no indication that your Principal Law Clerk’s relative is involved in the foreclosure case.
In Opinion 02-83, the Committee advised that a judge need not disqualify him/herself in cases involving an insurance carrier which employs the judge’s spouse’s niece who is an attorney engaged in investigating work and does not make court appearances, provided the judge does not know or have reason to know of the niece’s involvement in the case.
Given the circumstances you describe, you may preside in a foreclosure case where the law firm representing the bank employs your Principal Law Clerk’s fourth degree relative as there is no indication the relative is involved in the case. However, you should insulate your law clerk from participating in the case and disclose the relationship to all parties and their attorneys and that you have insulated your law clerk (see Opinions 13-26; 11-99).
Enclosed for your convenience are Opinions 13-36, 11-99 and 02-83.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)