Opinion: 00-67

September 14, 2000

Digest:  A judge who will be receiving compensation in concluding a business relationship with the judge's former law partner must disclose and recuse him/herself from cases in which the former law partner appears, for a period of two years from the last payment to the judge. The judge should also disclose the judge's first cousin's marriage to that attorney and, subject to remittal, recuse in cases in which the attorney appears.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.03 (E)(1); 100.3(F); 100.4(D)(1)(c);
           Opinions 89-37 (Vol. III); 91-108 (Vol. VIII);
           91-143 (Vol. VIII); 92-01 (Vol. IX); 94-05 (Vol. XII);
           95-11 (Vol. XIII); 97-44 (Vol. XV).


            A full-time judge inquires about recusal requirements in cases in which the judge's former law partner appears before the judge. The judge only recently was elevated to the bench and terminated the relationship with his/her law partner. The law practice was in tort matters only and the judge will continue to receive legal fees on cases pending before he/she became a judge. The judge further advises that the former partner is married to the judge's first cousin, though a divorce is pending on an uncontested basis.

            Section 100.4(D)(1)(c) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provides that a judge shall not engage in "continuing business relationships with those lawyers ... likely to come before the court on which the judges serves." See Opinions 95-11 (Vol. XIII); 91-108 (Vol. VIII); 89-37 (Vol. III).

            Although the judge has terminated the professional relationship with the former partner, the Committee, in similar instances, has concluded that presiding over a case at a point where there is in existence a financial obligation of the former partner to the judge could readily constitute impropriety or the appearance thereof. The judge, therefore, should disclose and offer disqualification in any law suit in which the attorney appears for a period of two years from the date of the last payment to the judge. See Opinions 97-44 (Vol. XV); 94-05 (Vol. XII); 92-01 (Vol. IX); 91-143 (Vol. VIII).

            With respect to the partner's marriage to the judge's first cousin, such relationship requires the judge to disclose and disqualify, subject to remittal. 22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1)(e); 100.3(F).