October 12, 2016
PERSONAL & CONFIDENTIAL
This responds to your inquiry (16-121) asking what your ethical obligations are in cases involving a probation officer who is your fifth-degree relative by marriage. The probation officer “supervises some defendants in [your] court, prepares some pre-sentence investigation reports, and files some violations of probation proceedings.” You are “barely acquainted with the probation officer” and neither you nor your spouse has a close relationship with him/her.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not prohibit a judge from presiding when a relative by blood or marriage beyond the fourth-degree appears before him/her as a lawyer or material witness (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E][e]). Therefore, you have no obligation to disclose or recuse in matters involving this probation officer, provided you can be fair and impartial.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Family Court Judge
Acting Justice of the Supreme Court