Octover 24, 1989
Digest: A part-time town justice may not represent a party in its negotiations with the town in which he or she is a justice.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(a); 100.5(h)
A part-time town justice, who also is an attorney in private practice, asks whether the justice may represent a client in a real estate negotiation with the town in which the justice sits.
“A part-time judge is permitted to practice law and may accept private employment . . . provided that such employment is not incompatible with judicial office and does not conflict or interfere with the proper performance of the judge's duties” (22 NYCRR 100.5[h]). 22 NYCRR 100.2(a) provides that “a judge shall conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary.”
Pursuant to section 20 of the Town Law, a town justice is an officer of the town. Representation of a party in negotiations with the town of which the justice is an officer creates an appearance of a conflict of interest and thus, an appearance of impropriety by the justice. Accordingly, the town justice should not represent a client on one side of a transaction with the town of which the justice is an officer.