June 13, 1988
Topic: Propriety of a judge, who was a former County Social Services attorney, hearing small claims matters initiated by County Social Services Department in his court.
Digest: The judge may hear the small claims matters in view of the passage of eight years since leaving his prior position.
Rules: Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 3; 22 NYCRR §100.3 (c) (1) (i), (c) (1) (ii) and (d).
A judge of a City Court, who was employed eight years ago as the sole attorney for the County Department of Social Services, inquires whether he can hear small claims actions filed by the Social Services Department in his court.
As a reasonable period of time has passed since the termination of the judge’s prior employment with the Department of Social Services, and as the statute of limitation has already passed on most cases which would have been pending at the time of the judge’s employment as a Social Service attorney, the judge may hear the small claims actions.
Of course, the judge must always bear in mind that his conduct should promote confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and should any special situation arise in connection with the handling of these small claims which would convey the appearance of impropriety, the judge should make full disclosure of his prior employment.
This opinion is advisory only and does not bind either the Office of Court Administration or the Commission on Judicial Conduct.