Opinion 18-45

April 17, 2018

Dear :

         This responds to your inquiry (18-45) asking about your ethical obligations concerning an administrative judge’s order appointing you to preside in a particular court. You believe the order was legally sufficient when initially issued, but that it is no longer legally sufficient to authorize you to preside in that court, as it refers to and/or depends on a judicial status you no longer have. You state that your administrative judge disagrees and has (1) advised that you do, in fact, have the authority to preside in that court and (2) directed you to preside there. At our suggestion, you have also reached out to your administrative judge in an effort to request a new or revised order that will address the legal issues you have raised, but you have not yet heard back from him/her.

         We believe your question does not raise any ethical issues, but only legal and/or administrative issues.

         Even if your administrative judge does not issue a new or revised order, you may ethically continue to preside in the specialty court as directed by him/her without violating the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, as the law does not appear to vest you with the function, power, or duty to assign yourself to any court (see e.g. Judiciary Law § 212[1][c]).

         We cannot comment on the correctness of your and the administrative judge’s conflicting legal determinations or on the legal effect of the decisions and orders you have issued in the specialty court (see Judiciary Law § 212[2][l]). To the extent unsettled, these questions may be raised and addressed by persons with standing in the appropriate legal venue and/or through the appellate process.

                                                 Very truly yours,

                                                 George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice

                                                 Appellate Div., First Dep’t

                                                 Committee Co-Chair

                                                 Hon. Margaret T. Walsh

                                                 Family Court Judge

                                                 Acting Justice, Supreme Court

                                                      Committee Co-Chair