January 29, 2009
Digest: A part-time town judge may accept employment as an account manager for a health insurance broker that services the town in which the judge presides as long as the judge is not involved in any matters concerning his/her town and the employment does not interfere with the judge’s performance of his/her judicial duties. The judge must disqualify him/herself in any matter involving his/her employer.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.2(C); 100.6(B)(4); 100.3(E)(1)( c); Opinions 00-43 (Vol. XIX); 91-106 (Vol. VIII).
A part-time town judge asks whether it is ethically permissible to accept employment with a health insurance broker. The broker’s target markets are small businesses and municipalities, including the town in which the judge presides. The judge would be employed as an account manager whose responsibilities would include contacting municipalities, making presentations, assisting with municipal insurance needs and benefits, and troubleshooting problems. There is also the potential for the judge to move into sales, in which case the judge would actively pursue municipalities for their business. In neither case would the judge be involved in any matters involving the town where he/she presides, but would direct his/her efforts towards other municipalities in the same county where he/she presides or in adjoining counties.
A part-time judge may accept private employment that is not incompatible with judicial office and does not conflict or interfere with the proper performance of his/her judicial duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.6[B]). Nevertheless, a judge must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all the judge’s activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). Nor may a judge lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others, or convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).
The Committee previously has advised that a part-time judge may accept full-time employment as in-house counsel for an insurance company unless the company has matters that are likely to come frequently before the judge’s court (see Opinion 91-106 [Vol. VIII]). The Committee did not consider such employment as incompatible with judicial office (id.).
Therefore, the judge in the present inquiry also may accept employment as an account manager with a health insurance broker as long as the judge is not involved in any matters concerning the town where he/she presides and as long as the employment does not interfere with the judge’s performance of his/her judicial duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.6). In addition, the judge must disqualify him/herself in any matter involving his/her employer (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E][c]; cf. Opinion 00-43 [Vol. XIX] [recusal is not required where judge’s spouse serves as insurance broker]).