April 28, 2017
This responds to your inquiry (17-30) asking whether part-time judges may organize a free community “Law Day” event to be held at the local library or historical society “where attorneys from the local area...would volunteer their time to provide to the public free 10 minute private consultations in their respective practice areas.” The event is open to all local attorneys who wish to volunteer. The attorneys would be invited to participate “through advertisement in the local bar association bulletin or web site or flyer posted in the court building” or through referrals.
It is ethically permissible for a judge to arrange such an event provided that the judge does personally solicit attorneys to participate. In addition, a judge must not recommend any particular lawyer or law firm, and it must be clear that the court is not making any specific recommendation. No ethical bar exists to the use of courthouse space to publicize this event as long as it is clear that the court is not making any official recommendation of a particular attorney. Similarly, the event may be advertised in the local bar association bulletin or web site.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 08-192 and 95-14/95-21 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Div., First Dep’t (Ret.)
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Family Court Judge
Acting Justice, Supreme Court