March 1, 1990
Digest: A full-time judge must recuse himself or herself when the mayor who originally appointed the judge appears before the judge representing a private client if either party requests it.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(a); 100.3 ( c)(1)
A full-time judge asks whether recusal is necessary whenever the mayor, a practicing attorney, appears before the judge on behalf of a private client. The mayor initially appointed the judge on an interim basis, but the judge prevailed in a general election a few months later. The only remaining power that the mayor has over the judge is the location of the court’s office space.
Although the mayor’s actual power over the judge and court appears to be relatively minor, the perception is inescapable that a client of the mayor might be in a favored position because of the relationship between the mayor and the judge. The original appointment of the judge was within the mayor’s discretion, and the public may believe that the mayor continues to influence the judge, or that the judge remains indebted to the mayor because of the original appointment.
Under these circumstances, if the mayor appears before the judge as counsel to a private client, the judge must disclose the relevant facts to all parties in court, and should recuse himself or herself if either party requests it. If both sides consent, then the judge may preside.