March 6, 2003
Digest: Recusal is not required merely because the lawyer who is appearing before the judge is an associate of a former partner in a law firm that had previously represented the judge and which is now defunct, where the partner had no involvement in the matter and does not practice with the partner in the firm which had represented the judge.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1)
Six years ago, the inquiring judge had been represented in a personal legal matter by an attorney who was a partner in a law firm. The firm disbanded and one of the partners is a member of a different law firm. The inquirer never spoke with or consulted with that partner about his/her legal matter. Now, an associate of that partner’s present firm, is representing a party in a matter before the judge. Is the judge obligated to exercise recusal?
In the opinion of the Committee, under the circumstances presented by the inquirer, recusal is not required provided, of course, that the judge believes he or she can be impartial. That is, the mere fact that an associate of a lawyer who had been a partner in a firm that represented the judge and who had no involvement in that matter, is now appearing before the judge , does not, in our view, render the instant proceeding one “in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned . . .” 22 NYCRR 100.3(E)(1). Neither the lawyer who represented the judge nor the firm (which no longer exists), are appearing before the judge and there appears to be no reasonable basis to conclude that recusal is nevertheless required.