September 6, 2007
Digest: A part-time acting city court judge may continue to employ an associate in the judge’s private law practice, after the associate is elected councilman-at-large in the same city where the judge presides.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; Opinions 05-63.
An acting city court judge employs an associate in his/her private law practice who intends to run for election as councilman-at-large in the city where the judge presides. The judge advises that, pursuant to the City Charter, a councilman-at-large becomes acting mayor if the city’s mayor becomes incapacitated or unable to continue in office. The judge further advises that the mayor nominates, and the city common council appoints, the acting city court judge. Consequently, the judge asks if he/she may continue to employ the associate if the associate is elected councilman-at-large.
Pursuant to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, a judge must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety, and must act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. 22 NYCRR 100.2.
In Opinion 05-63, this Committee concluded that an acting city court judge could continue to employ an associate attorney who was campaigning for the office of mayor. The judge, however, could not continue such employment if the associate were elected because as mayor, the associate would have the authority to appoint the city’s acting city court judge. Id. In the present inquiry, therefore, the Committee sees no impropriety in the judge employing an associate attorney who also serves as city council member-at-large in the same city where the judge presides.
However, should the associate be elected, and thereafter become acting mayor and thus gain the authority to nominate the acting city court judge, the inquiring judge should end his/her association with that attorney.