June 18, 2015
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
Please Note: This opinion has been modified by Opinion 21-22(A) concerning a judge’s obligations when a party is appearing without counsel. As stated in Opinion 21-22(A), “we no longer prohibit remittal of disqualification merely because a party is unrepresented. We hereby modify our prior opinions to abolish that requirement.” This also affects opinions “where disclosure (or disclosure and insulation) is mandated in lieu of outright disqualification” (see id. fn 3).
This responds to your inquiry (15-95) asking about your ethical obligation when your insurance company, which recently represented yours or your first degree relative’s interests in two civil actions, appears before you.
During the pendency of the lawsuits, you are disqualified, subject to remittal, when your insurance company appears in your court on behalf of other insureds. Remittal is not available if any party is self- represented. For two years after each case is concluded, assuming you can be fair and impartial and there are no other disqualifying factors, you must disclose that the insurance company represented you or your relative in a civil action. If any party objects to you presiding, you have the sole discretion either to disqualify yourself and exercise recusal or you may preside.
Enclosed, for your convenience, is Opinion 07-206 which addresses this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)