Opinion 89-160

January 18, 1990


Digest:         A part-time judge, who is also an attorney, may represent a charity and hold funds for the charity in an escrow account. The judge may not permit an attorney to whom he rents office space and who handles legal work for the judge, to practice before the judge or before his co-judges in the same court.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.5(b)(2), (f) and (h).


         A part-time judge who also practices law asks whether he may represent a sporting event which raises funds for several charities, one of which he also represents on a pro bono basis. The judge asks whether, as attorney for the sporting event, he may receive the proceeds from the event in his escrow account for distribution to the charities. The judge also asks if he may personally present the check to the president of the charity which he represents at its annual dinner.

         Section 100.5(h) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator states:


A part-time judge may accept private employment or public employment ... provided that such employment is not incompatible with judicial office and does not interfere with the proper performance of the judge’s duties.

         Section 100.5 (b)(2) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator states that:


No judge shall solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of the office for that purpose, but may be listed as an officer, director or trustee of such an organization; provided, however, that no such listing shall be used in connection with any solicitation of funds. No judge shall be a speaker or the guest of honor at an organization’s fundraising events, but he or she may attend such events.

         Section 100.5(h) permits a part-time judge, who is also an attorney, to donate legal services to the charity. As the attorney for the charity, he may perform any of the usual functions undertaken by attorneys, including receiving and distributing client funds through his escrow account.

         Although the judge may attend charitable dinners, the judge may not be a speaker or guest of honor at such dinners. This prohibition would preclude the judge from presenting the sporting event proceeds to the president of the charity at the annual dinner. See Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinion 88-143. In addition, the judge’s representation of the sporting event and the charity may not be listed, advertised or publicly mentioned as this could be construed as an endorsement.

         The judge also asks whether an attorney who rents office space from him and who provides of counsel services for a fee to him may practice before the other co-justices in his court.

         Section 100.5(f) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator states that:


No judge who is permitted to practice law shall permit his or her partners or associates to practice law in the court in which he or she is a judge. No judge who is permitted to practice law shall permit the practice of law in his or her court by the law partners or associates of another judge of the same court who is permitted to practice law.

         The judge and the attorney have a business relationship which is equivalent to their being associates. Consequently, the judge may not permit the attorney to appear in the judge’s court, either before the judge himself, or before the judge’s co-judges.