September 14, 1993
NOTE: Please consult Joint Opinion 08-171/08-174 before relying on this opinion. To the extent that this opinion is inconsistent with Joint Opinion 08-171/08-174 regarding a judge's disclosure/recusal obligations when his/her personal attorney or his/her personal attorney's partners and associates appear in the judge's court, it is overruled.
Digest: A judge must disqualify himself or herself from presiding over cases being handled by the law firm that has recently represented and at present represents the judge and his family in several matters, unless after full disclosure, the parties consent and the judge does not doubt his or her ability to be impartial. Judge need not disqualify himself or herself where attorney’s representation of judge ended 11 years ago.
Rules: 22 NYCRR §100.3(c)(1).
A judge asks whether the judge, with disclosure and consent, may preside over matrimonial cases being handled by a law firm that has represented the judge, and the judge’s spouse, parents and daughter in estate planning matters, including the drafting of wills; handled the lease and sale of a cooperative apartment for the judge’s mother and daughter; and presently is representing the estate of the judge’s father, where the judge’s mother serves as the sole executrix.
The Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts (22 NYCRR 100.3) provide:
(c) Disqualification. (1) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which his or her impartiality might be reasonably questioned . . . .
In view of the close relationship between the judge, the judge’s family, and this firm, the judge must disqualify himself or herself in all matters in which that firm appears, unless after full disclosure, all parties consent to the judge’s presiding and the judge does not doubt his or her ability to be impartial.
The judge also inquires whether he or she may preside over cases being handled by the attorneys who represented the judge and the judge’s spouse in a divorce proceeding, and the judge in a matter related to a former law firm. The judge states that there has been no professional dealing with these attorneys since 1982. In view of the fact that this relationship terminated 11 years ago, the judge need not disqualify himself or herself in matters in which these attorneys appear, nor need the judge affirmatively disclose the relationship, provided the judge has no doubt that he or she ca be impartial. See, Opinion 90-169, Vol. VI.