Digest: A town justice standing for reelection cannot preside over any proceeding during the campaign in which the attorney who is the justice’s campaign manager appears; after the campaign, the justice should follow the guidelines for recusal and disclosure provided in prior Committee Opinions 88-43, 88-120 and 88-153.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.3( c); Canon 3 ( c)
A town justice, who is campaigning for reelection and whose campaign manager is a practicing lawyer, asks “whether this attorney can appear before me during the campaign and if successful, after the campaign”.
Section 100.3 ( c) (1) of the Rules of Judicial Conduct of the Chief Administrator of the Courts provides, in relevant part, as follows:
A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which his or her impartiality might reasonably be questioned. . . .
The Committee believes that clearly, during the course of the justice’s campaign, the justice may not preside over any matter coming before the justice where the campaign manager appears as an attorney. Disqualification of the justice is mandatory during this period.
After the campaign has ended, when the attorney no longer is acting as the justice’s campaign manager, the justice should follow the guidelines set down in previous Committee Opinions on analogous situations - Opinion 88-43, 88-120 and 88-153.
Basically, once the campaign is terminated, the justice should continue to disqualify himself or herself whenever the attorney who has been the justice’s campaign manager appears, for as long as the justice feels that he or she cannot be impartial. If and when the justice concludes that he or she would be impartial and considering all relevant factors, including but not limited to the length of time since the campaign ended (perhaps using the two-year period of 22 NYCRR 16.1 of the Rules of the Chief Judge as a guide) the justice chooses not to disqualify himself or herself, then the justice must reveal on the record his or her prior relationship with the attorney. If any party objects, the justice should consider seriously disqualifying himself or herself, and should do so, unless the justice thinks the objection is frivolous, in bad faith, or is wholly without merit.