July 6, 2015
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
This responds to your inquiry (14-04) asking about your ethical obligations, if any, in light of your prior, long-term employment at a local high school in a small community, in the event former students or their family members appear before you.
The mere fact that you may know or know of the litigants or their family members from your previous career in education does not, standing alone, require disclosure, recusal or disqualification. Rather, your ethical obligations depend on the specific nature of the relationship with the particular former student(s) or their family member(s). Although Opinion 11-125 deals specifically with the relationship between judges and lawyers, this Opinion nevertheless provides guidance as to the nature of relationships in general (acquaintance; close social relationship; close personal relationship) and a judge’s corresponding ethical obligation (disclosure; recusal; disqualification; disqualification subject to remittal). Of course, regardless of the nature of the relationship, if you do not believe you can be fair and impartial, you should not preside.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 13-39; 12-78; 11-125; 08-176; and 94-74 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)