March 9, 1995
Digest: A part-time judge, who formerly represented a public housing authority's board of commissioners, need not recuse himself or herself in zoning violation cases, where the attorney for the accused was a commission member at the time of the representation by the judge.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.3(c)
A part-time acting village justice asks whether disqualification and/or disclosure are required in zoning violation cases where the private lawyer representing the accused is a former member of the Board of Commissioners of the Public Housing Authority, having served from 1990-1993, the same period that the judge was that Board's attorney. The judge assumed judicial office about two years ago at the time that the lawyer ceased to be one of the Commissioners.
The judge did not represent the lawyer in his/her personal capacity, but rather represented the Housing Authority as an entity. Therefore, there was no personal, attorney-client relationship between the justice and the lawyer. Moreover, the relationship, such as it was, ceased to exist two years ago.
Under the circumstances, the judge's impartiality can not "reasonably be questioned'' as a result of the foregoing indirect relationship. Therefore, the justice need not offer recusal nor need there be disclosure. The same rule would seem to apply where the attorney is prosecuting such cases.