June 11, 2015
Digest: A part-time judge may serve on a bar association’s attorney grievance committee.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(A); 100.4(C)(3); 100.4(F); 100.6(B)(1); Opinions 07-184; 04-21; 02-128; 00-15; 95-49.
A part-time judge asks whether he/she may serve on a bar association’s attorney grievance committee. The grievance committee accepts complaints from the Appellate Division and the public, notifies the attorney respondent, serves as an intermediary to obtain initial written responses from the attorney and the complainant, and determines if a hearing is necessary. The grievance committee’s recommendation is then forwarded to the Appellate Division. The judge notes that the bar association’s grievance committee “has no authority to impose any sanctions on the attorney involved but can only send its findings and recommendation to the Appellate Division.”
A judge must always act to promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). Subject to certain limitations, a judge may be a member of an organization devoted to the law, the legal system or the administration of justice (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C]). A part-time judge, unlike a full-time judge, is not subject to the prohibition on acting “as an arbitrator or mediator or otherwise perform[ing] judicial functions in a private capacity unless expressly authorized by law” (22 NYCRR 100.4[F]; 100.6[B]).
The Committee has advised that a part-time judge may serve on a bar association’s attorney grievance committee (see Opinions 00-15; 95-49), although a full-time judge may not (see Opinions 07-184; 04-21 [emphasizing that a full-time judge may not “perform judicial functions in a private capacity unless expressly authorized by law”]).1 Indeed, the Committee observed that there was “no ethical objection to such service” for a part-time judge, since “judges serve in related matters throughout the State, e.g., Appellate Division justices passing on the disciplining of attorneys” (Opinion 95-49). The inquiring part-time judge may likewise serve on a bar association’s attorney grievance committee (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C]; Opinions 00-15; 95-49).
1 Although of less immediate relevance here, the Committee has also advised that a part-time judge may serve on an attorney grievance committee “associated with a Unified Court System Judicial District” (Opinion 02-128).