October 16, 1997
The justice of a Village Court, who is permitted to practice law, may not
practice law in the Town Court where the Town Court and the Village Court
share the same court facility, court offices, court staff and court clerk.
22 NYCRR 100.6(B)(2);
Opinions 90-23 (Vol. V);
93-57 (Vol. XI).
A part-time, non-lawyer Town Justice inquires if he/she may allow a part-time Village Justice, who serves in a village encompassed within the town, to practice law in the Village Court. The Village Court and the Town Court share the same court facility, office, office staff, and court clerk.
Generally, a justice who is permitted to practice law may practice law in another court within the county before a non-lawyer judge. 22 NYCRR 100.6(B)(2); Opinions 90-23 (Vol. V), 93-57 (Vol. XI). However, in the instant case, the fact that these two courts share the same court facility, office, office staff and court clerk obscures the fact that there are two distinct courts operating in the facility. The public, in general, and litigants, in particular, may be hard-pressed to distinguish where and when the activities and functions of one court end and the other begin. These courts are so united and interwoven that they appear to have lost their separate identity. To a significant degree, the judges of the two courts appear to be co-judges of the same court.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibit a part-time judge from practicing law in the court in which the judge serves. 22 NYCRR 100.6(B)(2). It is therefore the opinion of this Committee that, in this unusual circumstance, the justice of the Village Court who is permitted to practice law may not practice law in the Town Court which shares the same court facility, court offices, court staff and court clerk as the Village Court.