April 23, 2009
Digest: A part-time lawyer judge who represents a local police officer in a personal matter is not disqualified from presiding over cases in which the police officer/client’s fellow officers appear.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.3(E).
A part-time lawyer judge asks whether he/she is disqualified from presiding in all cases involving the local Police Department if he/she represents a police officer from the department in a personal legal matter. The judge realizes that he/she must disqualify him/herself from any case that is prosecuted in his/her court that involves the police officer/client.
A judge must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of 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]). Therefore, a judge must disqualify him/herself in any proceeding where the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E]).
It is the Committee’s view that it is ethically permissible for a lawyer judge to preside in cases where his/her client’s fellow police officers appear - for example, as either witnesses or complainants - as long as the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E]). Further, the judge is not required to disclose his/her relationship with the police officer/client.