December 11, 2014
Digest: A part-time judge who is represented by a union in his/her full-time extra-judicial employment, may preside in a small claims proceeding involving another local of the same union.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.3(E)(1); Opinions 04-105; 98-32 (Vol. XVI).
A part-time judge, who is also a full-time New York State government employee, is represented by a union in his/her extra-judicial employment. The judge asks if he/she may preside in a small claims proceeding where a local affiliate of the same union, though not the local that represents the judge, is the respondent.
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]). Therefore, a judge must disqualify him/herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E]).
The Committee has previously advised that a judge who is an officer of a union local must disqualify him/herself in any proceedings involving other members of the same union local (see Opinion 04-105; 98-32 [Vol. XVI]). As this inquiring judge is not a member of the union local/respondent in this small claims case, the judge may preside as long as he/she can be fair and impartial and is not disqualified for any other reason.