December 6, 2007
Digest: An attorney who is designated to serve as a Judicial Hearing Officer in a particular county may practice law in a court in the same county so long as he/she is not assigned to serve on the Judicial Hearing Officer Panel for such court.
Rules: 22 NYCRR Part 22; 22 NYCRR 100.6(A); 22 NYCRR 122.10; Opinion 07-76.
An administrative judge asks whether an attorney, who is designated to serve as a Judicial Hearing Officer (JHO) in a county and has been assigned to serve on a judicial hearing officer panel in one court in the county, may practice law in other courts in the county where the JHO is not assigned to serve on the judicial hearing officer panels.
JHO’s, as quasi-judicial officials, generally are subject to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. 22 NYCRR 100.6(A); Opinion 07-76. The extent to which a JHO may practice law, however, is governed by section 122.10 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator(22 NYCRR Part 22), which provides, in relevant part, that “[a] judicial hearing officer shall not participate as an attorney in any contested matter in a court in a county where he or she serves on a judicial hearing officer panel for such court.” (Emphasis added.) Although this provision prohibits a JHO from appearing in a court when he/she serves on a hearing officer panel for such court, it does not preclude a JHO from appearing in other courts in the county where he/she is not
assigned to serve on the hearing officer panels.
The JHO in the present inquiry, therefore, is not precluded either by the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct or by Part 22 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator from practicing in a court in the county where he/she is designated to serve as a JHO when he/she is not assigned to serve on a hearing officer panel for such court. The fact that the JHO’s adversaries in any proceedings in such court may also appear before him/her in his/her capacity as a JHO does not warrant a different result.