October 31, 2009
Digest: A full-time judge may serve on the board of directors of a legal referral project of the local bar association.
Rules: 22 NYCRR100.4(c) and 100.9 (b)(1)
Several full-time judges of a county inquire whether one of them may serve on the board of directors of a legal referral project for indigent clients initiated by the county bar association. Members of the project would not appear in court or provide direct legal services, but would screen the prospective clients for financial eligibility and, would refer clients to legal service agencies for assistance, which ultimately could result in the commencement of actions in the judges’ court.
Section 100.4 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator states in part:
A judge, subject to the proper performance of his or her judicial duties, may engage in the following quasi-judicial activities, if in doing so the judge does not cause doubt in the capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before him or her:
. . .
(c) A judge may serve as a member, officer or director of an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice.
Section 100.5(b) further states:
A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties. A judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or nonlegal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members, subject to the following limitations:
(1) A judge shall not serve if it is likely that the organization will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before him or her or will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court.
From the submission, it is clear that the organization itself, or its representatives, will not appear in court providing direct legal services to individuals, but merely will refer individuals to legal services agencies.
It is the committee’s opinion that any of the judges may serve on the board of directors of the referral project.