22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(C); 100.4(A)(3);
Joint Opinion 90-59/90-65 (Vol. V).
The inquirer, a sole practitioner and an acting city judge, inquires whether it is permissible to represent an organization seeking a zoning change before the city council of the same city in which the judge sits. The judge would be appearing before the zoning authority on behalf of the client, seeking to obtain a benefit for that client.
Section 100.2 of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct requires that "A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge's activities." Subdivision (C) provides that "A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others;" 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(C). Further, section 100.4(A)(3) of the Rules states that a judge's extra-judicial activities are to be conducted so that they do not "interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not compatible in the judicial office."
Applying such principles, the Committee in Joint Opinion 90-59/90-65 (Vol.
Although a part-time judge may practice law . . . it must
be done in a manner to avoid the appearance of impropriety . . .
and any interference with judicial duties. . . . . A part-time judge's
representation of a client in a controversial matter before the
planning board of the same town where he serves as judge, may
lead to speculation, although unfounded, of political influence
and may appear improper.
Based on the foregoing, the Committee concludes that the inquiring judge
should not represent clients before the city council in zoning matters.