Opinion 88-153

January 12, 1989

NOTE: Please consult Joint Opinion 08-171/08-174 before relying on this opinion. To the extent that this opinion is inconsistent with Joint Opinion 08-171/08-174 regarding a judge's disclosure/recusal obligations when his/her personal attorney or his/her personal attorney's partners and associates appear in the judge's court, it is overruled.


Topic:          Recusal of judge because of previous relationship with attorney and insurance carrier presently appearing before the judge.


Digest:         A judge must disclose to all parties his prior connection with the lawyer or insurance carrier, and should seriously consider disqualifying himself if any party objects, unless the objection is frivolous or in bad faith.


Rules:          22 NYCRR §100.3(c)


         A judge inquires whether he should recuse himself, in the absence of personal bias, in cases in which a law firm which represented the judge in a personal injury action appears before the judge, and in cases involving an insurance carrier which participated in settling the personal injury action involving the judge.

         The judge should disqualify himself in these matters for as long as the judge feels that he cannot be impartial. If and when the judge concludes that he would be impartial and considering all relevant factors, including but not limited to the length of time since the last representation (perhaps using the two year period of 22 NYCRR 16.1 of the Rules of the Chief Judge as a guide) the judge chooses not to disqualify himself, then he must reveal on the record his prior relationship with the attorneys and with the insurance carrier. If any party objects, the judge should seriously consider disqualifying himself, and should do so, unless he thinks the objection is frivolous, in bad faith, or is wholly without merit. To the extent that this opinion varies from our previous opinions 88-43 and 88-120 concerning the recusal of judges, this opinion shall be deemed a modification of these opinions.