April 27, 1995
Digest: A judge need not disclose the fact that the judge's first cousin is a partner in the law firm appearing before the judge in matrimonial cases where the cousin is not the lawyer appearing in the proceeding, specializes in a non-matrimonial area of practice, and is a person whom the judge has never met.
Rule;. 22 NYCRR 100.3(c)(1)(v).
The inquiring justice sits in a matrimonial part of the Supreme Court. Frequently appearing in the various matrimonial parts is a mid-sized general practice firm "which has a well-known matrimonial law department and a large inventory of matrimonial cases..." The justice's first cousin is a partner in the firm, "specializing in a non-matrimonial area of practice. I have never met or ever seen this cousin: I only know him by name." The justice asks whether, in cases where the law firm is appearing, "I need to disclose to counsel the fact that my cousin is a partner in the... law firm?"
Rule 100.3(c)(1) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator sets forth the various circumstances under which a judge is to disqualify himself or herself. Among those circumstance are where "the judge or the judge's spouse, or a person within the fourth degree of relationship to either of them, or the spouse of such a person, is acting as a lawyer in the proceeding."
On the facts stated, it appears that the cousin is not a person who would be “acting as a lawyer in the proceeding.” Accordingly, the Committee concludes that the justice need not disclose that a partner in the law firm is a first cousin of the justice.