April 29, 1993
Digest: A village justice should recuse himself or herself from presiding over a case where the village mayor is one of the complaining witnesses.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(a) and (c).
A village justice inquires whether the justice may preside over a criminal misdemeanor jury trial where one of the complaining witnesses is the village mayor. The defendant has been accused of painting over the advertisements of local businesses, one of which is owned by the mayor. In addition, the mayor is a member of the board that sets the village justice's salary.
It is the opinion of this Committee that the inquiring justice should recuse himself or herself from the case. Even though the mayor is not technically the plaintiff, the mayor is a complaining witness, which is similar enough under these circumstances. The inquiring justice should follow the standard procedure of removal of the case to another court where the justices of a village court are disqualified.