March 9, 2006
Digest: For a period of two years, a judge who consulted an attorney about a personal legal matter is disqualified from presiding over any case in which a party is represented by the attorney. Such disqualification is subject to remittal.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.3(E); 100.3(F); Opinions 05-143; 94-11 (Vol. XII); 92-54 (Vol. IX); 88-153 (Vol. II).
A judge asks whether he/she is disqualified from presiding in a case where a party is represented by an attorney with whom the judge recently discussed a personal legal matter. The judge advises that the attorney did not represent him/her and did not charge a consultation fee.
A judge must avoid impropriety and even the appearance of impropriety in all the judge’s activities. 22 NYCRR 100.2. With respect to his/her judicial activities, a judge must disqualify him/herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. 22 NYCRR 100.3(E). In past opinions, this Committee has advised that a judge is disqualified when an attorney who previously represented the judge on a personal legal matter appears before the judge. Opinions 92-54 (Vol. IX); 88-153 (Vol. II). In addition, a judge is disqualified even where the judge consulted, but had not yet retained, a law firm now representing a party before the judge. Opinion 05-143; see also Opinion 94-11 (Vol. XII)
Similarly, for a period of two years, the judge in the present inquiry is disqualified from presiding over any cases in which the attorney represents a party. Such disqualification, however, is subject to remittal. 22 NYCRR 100.3(F).