May 23, 2018
This responds to your inquiry (18-33) asking whether you may preside over matters involving attorneys who work for the same not-for-profit legal services firm as your spouse, where neither your spouse nor his/her appearing colleagues have a supervisory position in the firm.
Where a judge’s spouse works for a not-for-profit legal services firm (as opposed to a private law firm), the Committee has previously advised that a judge may preside over a matter in which his/her spouse’s colleagues appear unless the spouse was involved in any way with the case. In addition, the judge need not disclose the relationship if the spouse does not have “an interest that could be substantially affected by the … proceeding” (22 NYCRR 100.3[E][c]). If a party objects, it is within the judge’s discretion whether to preside.
Enclosed, for your convenience, is Opinion 97-82 which addresses this issue. Contrast Opinion 97-82 with Opinion 05-87, also enclosed, which addresses the situation where the spouse has a supervisory position.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Div., First Dep’t
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Family Court Judge
Acting Justice, Supreme Court