March 11, 1999
Please Note: This Opinion has been modified by Opinion 12-143, which advises that an individual subject to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct may attend criminal proceedings involving his/her 4th degree relative by blood or marriage in any county where such proceedings are pending.
Digest: A judge may accompany his/her child to a small claims proceeding in which the child is a party, and may observe such proceeding as a member of the audience only if the proceeding is being held in another county and the judge is likely to remain an unknown observer.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.2(C); Opinion 90-26 (Vol. V).
A judge asks whether it is permissible to accompany his/her child to a small claims proceeding in which the child is a party and either sit in the audience and observe the proceeding or next to the child during the proceeding.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibit a judge from lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of others or conveying or permitting others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. 22 NYCRR 100.2(C).
In Opinion 90-26 (Vol. V), this Committee advised that a judge who had children who were practicing attorneys was permitted to sit inconspicuously in the observer's area of a courtroom in order to view the children's performances. But, the Committee went on to say, the judge should not do this in any court located within the judge's own county nor should the judge observe in any court in any other county where it is likely that the judge may be recognized. Opinion 90-26 (Vol. V).
The Committee believes that the same considerations apply at least with equal force where the child is a party. Consequently, it is our opinion that the judge may accompany the child to a small claims proceeding, sit in the audience and observe the proceeding as a member of the audience, but only if the proceeding is in a county other than where the judge sits and where it is not likely that the judge is known.