April 4, 1989
Topic: Disqualification of town justice where municipality in which a justice presides brings suit.
Digest: A justice may preside over a proceeding in which the municipality in which the justice sits has brought the suit.
Rules: Code of Judicial Conduct, Cannon 3; NYCRR 100.3(c), 100.3(c)(i), 100.3(d)
The question posed is whether it is permissible for the municipality in which a town justice sits to bring a small claims action, pursuant to section 1809 of the Uniform Justice Court Act, or a civil proceeding, in the justice’s court.
The Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics makes no determination as to jurisdictional requirements. However, assuming jurisdictional requirements are met, the town justices having been elected or appointed in the municipality and being on the municipal payroll does not, in and of itself, give rise to a disqualifying relationship when the municipality is a party in a lawsuit.
A judge who sits in a court serving a particular municipality is not disqualified simply by virtue of the fact that he or she receives compensation for serving as a justice from the municipality. Absent any special disqualifying factors the town justice may preside over a proceeding brought in the justice’s court by the town.