June 27, 2001
Under the circumstances, a judge need not disqualify himself or herself
in proceedings involving an attorney who resided briefly with the attorney's
fiancé in an apartment in a building owned by the judge, provided
the judge believes that he or she can be impartial.
22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1);
Opinions 89-07 (Vol. III); 91-108 (Vol. VIII);
95-11 (Vol. XIII); 97-55 (Vol. XV).
A judge inquires regarding any possible obligation to disqualify himself or herself in matters in which a certain attorney appears. For a brief period, the attorney resided with the attorney's fiance in an apartment in a building owned by the judge. The judge also lived in the same building. Neither the attorney nor the fiance currently reside in the building and there are no disputes concerning the prior landlord/tenant relationship.
A judge must disqualify himself or herself in any matter in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned. 22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1). In applying that section, the Committee has opined that a judge should disclose the relationship and exercise recusal in proceedings involving attorneys or organizations having business before the judge when those attorneys or organizations rent or lease office space from the judge. Opinions 89-07 (Vol. III); 91-108 (Vol. VIII); 95-11 (Vol. XIII); 97-55 (Vol. XV). However, in the instant matter, there is not presently a landlord/tenant relationship between the attorney and the judge; the period that the judge and the attorney resided in the same building was brief; and the departure of the attorney from the building owned by the judge was without controversy. The Committee does not believe that the circumstances described in the inquiry rise to a level where the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned. Therefore, the judge need not exercise recusal in proceedings in which this attorney appears, provided the judge believes that he or she can be impartial.