September 21, 1995
Digest: A full-time judge may retain joint ownership in former law office real estate, with former law partner who shall be fully responsible for all associated real estate carrying expenses.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.5 (c)
A full-time judge inquires whether he/she may retain joint ownership, with his/her former law partner, of the real estate they jointly owned and used to house their law practice. The ex-law partner would still use the building for that purpose, with space and associated costs to be shared with a new attorney who intends hereafter to use the building also for a law practice. The judge and former law partner would also continue in force an insurance policy on each other's life to fund a buy out in the event either dies. The judge would otherwise pay and receive no monies whatsoever in connection with the building and maintain no other relationship regarding the real estate beyond a continuing joint ownership interest.
The permissible financial activities of a judge are governed by 22 NYCRR 100.5 (c). Nothing in that section prevents a judge from jointly owning real property, so long as the judge does not actively participate in the management of any aspect of the real estate, and, further, so long as the judge does not consequently became involved in “frequent transaction with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court on which he or she serves.”
While the instant arrangement is not likely to involve this judge in frequent transactions with the two lawyers who will use the real estate for a law practice, the judge should not permit either lawyer to practice, before the inquiring judge, unless all involved parties and attorneys consent in writing or on the record after full disclosure.