January 24, 2016
Digest: Whether a full-time City Court judge may accept a temporary appointment as a Family Court judge is a legal issue the Committee has no authority to resolve.
Rules: NY Const art VI, §§ 20(b)(1); 26(i)-(k); Family Court Act § 146; Judiciary Law § 212(2)(l); Uniform City Court Act § 107; 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.3(B)(7); 100.3(C)(1); 100.4(H)(1); Opinion 03-130.
The inquiring full-time City Court judge is a former Family Court support magistrate. The judge asks whether he/she may accept an administrative assignment as a Family Court judge to resolve his/her prior outstanding Family Court cases.
A judge must dispose of all judicial matters promptly, efficiently and fairly (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[B]) and cooperate with other judges and court officials in the administration of court business (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[C]).
The Committee has advised that a full-time City Court judge outside of New York City, although exempt from the constitutional bar on holding another public office (see NY Const art VI, § 20[b]), may not accept an appointment as a compensated, part-time village justice (see Opinion 03-130). In essence, if a full-time judge assumed a second public office in a local justice court, those duties would be both “extra-judicial” with reference to his/her full-time judicial duties, and “performed for or on behalf of” New York State or one of its political subdivisions (see Opinion 03-130 [noting the village, which would pay the judge, “is clearly a political subdivision of the State”]; 22 NYCRR 100.4[H]).
However, the Committee also expressly noted that its opinion interpreting section 100.4(H)(1) “does not prohibit a City Court judge from being assigned to serve in the village court in appropriate circumstances” (Opinion 03-130 [emphasis added]).
The present inquiry is precisely the inverse of Opinion 03-130, as it does not involve acceptance of a second judicial office or other compensated extra-judicial activity; the sole question is the propriety of accepting a particular administrative assignment. In the Committee’s view, the proposed assignment does not, on its face, implicate any ethical proscription.
Instead, whether a newly appointed City Court judge may accept a temporary appointment as a Family Court judge is primarily a legal question (see NY Const art VI, § 26[i]-[k]; Family Court Act § 146; Uniform City Court Act § 107). As such, the Committee has no authority to resolve it (see Judiciary Law § 212[l]; 22 NYCRR 100.1).