June 18, 1999
NOTE: This Opinion is modified by Joint Opinion 09-59/09-86.
Digest: It is not improper for a part-time lawyer-judge to have the judge's judicial position mentioned in the biographical section of the judge's law firm's listing in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.2(C); Opinions 92-125 (Vol. X); 97-61 (Vol. XV); 97-64 (Vol. XVI).
A part-time village justice submits the following inquiry:
I was recently appointed Acting Village Justice of the Village of __________, New York. My law firm has a biographical page featuring a short biographical sketch of each attorney in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory.
Is it permissible to include my judicial appointment as part of my biographical material? Enclosed is a draft biography showing how the appointment would appear in the Martindale-Hubbell.
The biographical data includes the judge's date of birth, bar admissions, education, bar association membership, former status as village trustee, and the statement "Acting Village Justice, Village of __________, 1999, ___________."
At issue is whether this reference to the judge's judicial status constitutes the lending of "the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge" as a practicing attorney, in violation of section 100.2(C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. 22 NYCRR 100.2(C).
The Committee does not believe that section 100.2(C) would be violated by the reference to the judge's position. We note, first, that the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory refers to itself as being primarily intended to provide information to lawyers about lawyers. That is, it is not regarded nor can it reasonably be perceived as an advertisement directed to the public for the purpose of soliciting legal business. This is an important consideration because the use of judicial status in advertising was expressly disapproved by the Committee in Opinion 92-125 (Vol. X). But, Martindale-Hubbell existed long before advertising by lawyers became permissible.
Nor is the present request similar to the requests in Opinion 97-61 (Vol. XV), where a law firm wished to notify its clients that one of the partners was now a part-time judge, and Opinion 97-64 (Vol. XVI), where the law firm's newsletter, sent to the firm's clients and containing legal discussions, sought to identify one of its partners as a judge. In both instances, the Committee disapproved of the reference to judicial status. For in both instances the context of the reference made clear the wholly promotional purpose behind it. We do not perceive such defects to be present in the instant matter. Of course, should the judge's law firm wish to disseminate the materials contained in its listing in Martindale-Hubbell to clients, present or prospective, the judge would be obligated to insure that any reference to judicial status is excised.