September 16, 2010
Digest: A judge who is a candidate for judicial office should disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, from presiding in a case when an attorney who is a member of a political party’s candidate screening panel subcommittee that reviewed the judge’s application for the political party’s endorsement also is a partner in the plaintiff/law firm in the case.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.3(E)(1); 100.3(F); Opinion 94-86 (Vol. XII); Joint Opinion 03-93/04-32.
A Judge who is a candidate for election to judicial office asks whether he/she is disqualified from presiding in a case when a partner of a plaintiff law firm is a member of the candidate screening panel subcommittee that reviewed the judge's application for a political party's endorsement. The judge advises that the partner was a member of the subcommittee that interviewed him/her, but to his/her knowledge did not participate in his/her interview before the full screening panel. The judge further advises that he/she received a letter from the attorney representing the law firm advising the judge that the partner in the plaintiff law firm is a member of the screening panel. The judge asks whether he/she must disqualify him/herself from the case.
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]). Therefore, a judge must disqualify him/herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E]).
The Committee previously has advised that a judge seeking re-election who appears before a bar association judicial screening committee is not required to disqualify him/herself, to disclose to opposing counsel that an attorney appearing in a case sits on the bar association screening committee, or to disqualify him/herself from appeals of a part-time judge's trial court decisions when the part-time judge sits on a bar association screening committee (see Opinion 94-86 [Vol. XII]). Nor is a Housing Court judge required to disqualify him/herself when an attorney appearing in the judge's court serves on the council that evaluates the judge for re-appointment (see Joint Opinion 03-93/04-32).
However, the screening panel member here is involved in the case pending in the judge's court, not as an attorney representing a client but as a partner in a law firm that is the plaintiff in the case. It is the Committee's view that, in this circumstance, the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned and, therefore, the judge should disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E]; 100.3[F]).