November 17, 2021
This responds to your inquiry (21-125) stating that you are the spouse of the local Conflict Defender and asking if, after commencing service as a judge, you would be able to preside over matters involving your spouse’s subordinates after disclosure, when there would be no personal appearance by your spouse.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provide that a judge must disqualify him/herself in any proceeding in which his/her impartiality might reasonably be questioned (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E]) including where the judge’s spouse is acting as a lawyer in the proceeding (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[E][e]).
Because your spouse is the head of the conflict defender’s office, you are disqualified from all cases where employees from that office appear. Such disqualification is subject to remittal only if your spouse will not personally appear in the courtroom. For an overview of the remittal process. Please see Opinion 21-22(A).
Enclosed for your convenience are Opinions 21-22(A); 19-150; 16-67; 10-05; 08-212 and 07-216 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
Margaret T. Walsh
Supreme Court Justice
Acting Supreme Court Justice