Digest: There is no ethical objection to a town judge accommodating in the courthouse a pro bono panel of local attorneys to consult with unrepresented parties in civil and small claims actions commenced in the town court, provided that it is made clear that the attorneys do not speak for the court, and that the court facilities are furnished solely as a matter of courtesy.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2.
A town justice inquires whether a pro bono civil legal consulting service comprised of local attorneys may be established in the town courthouse. An attorney has proposed this pro bono panel to the inquiring judge in order to aid unrepresented parties in civil or small claims actions in the town court. The inquiring judge is concerned that “the court might appear to be sponsoring or recommending the services fo the pro bono attorneys.”
It is the opinion of this Committee that there is no ethical objection to such a pro bono panel using courthouse space, provided that it is made clear that the attorneys do not speak for the court, and that the courthouse facilities are being furnished solely as a courtesy. It may be desirable, however, for the inquiring judge to consult with the administrative judge before implementing this program.