February 4, 2013
This responds to your inquiry (12-125) asking whether you must disclose your relationship with an attorney appearing before you and/or disqualify yourself from presiding because of that relationship.
I have enclosed the Committee’s Opinion 11-125 which discusses several illustrative examples of relationships between judges and attorneys who appear before them, and a judge’s disclosure and/or disqualification obligations in each case.
As the Committee noted in Opinion 11-125, interpersonal relationships are varied, fact-dependent, and unique to the individuals involved. Therefore, the Committee can provide only general guidelines to assist judges who ultimately must determine the nature of their own specific relationships with particular attorneys and their resulting ethical obligations, if any, resulting from those relationships.
If, after reading Opinion 11-125, you are confident you can categorize your relationship with the attorney in question and determine your ethical obligations, then you may proceed accordingly. However, the Committee recommends that you make a record, such as a memorandum to the file, of the basis for your conclusion. This practice, although not mandatory, may be of practical assistance to you if similar circumstances arise in the future or if anyone later questions your decision. Alternatively, if you believe you need further assistance with your inquiry, please feel free to write or call us.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)