March 7, 2018
This responds to your inquiry (17-180) asking if, as a newly elected town justice, you must prohibit your 1st-degree relative from appearing before your co-judges. You have explained you maintain a full-time law practice but have no affiliation in any way with your relative’s law practice or his/her law firm.
While you must prohibit your “partners or associates” from practicing before your co-judges (see 22 NYCRR 100.6[B]), we have not extended this bar to relatives with no association with your law firm. Also, you must not voluntarily disclose this relationship to your co-judges as it may, “even if well-intentioned, be perceived as an inappropriate invocation of such status to further the private interests of the inquirer” (Opinion 07-18; accord 12-102).
Thus, on these facts, you need not prohibit your relative from practicing law before your co-judges. We note that your co-judges, rather than you, have the responsibility to decide whether or not to preside in matters involving your relative. Still, we have enclosed some opinions on this topic for your and their consideration. They may also contact us for further guidance as needed.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 12-154; 12-102; 15-87 and 07-18 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Div., First Dep’t (Ret.)
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Family Court Judge
Acting Justice, Supreme Court