February 24, 1989
Topic: Propriety of a part-time justice sharing office facilities with a law firm with which the justice had previously been but no longer is associated.
Digest: A part-time justice who is a single practitioner may not share certain office facilities with a law firm with which the justice formerly was associated and thereby permit the members of that firm to appear before the co-justice in that justice's court.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 1OO.5(c)(l)
A part-time town justice who is permitted to practice law plans to disassociate himself from a previous partnership. The justice will continue to practice law as a sole practitioner. The former partners plan to practice law under their own firm name, but will share adjacent law offices, which will have separate entrances, stationery, telephones and personnel. The former partners plan to appear in the court in which the justice serves, but will not appear before the justice. The justice does not plan to share any fees with his former partners except fees for work performed on occasional matters not litigated in the court in which the justice serves.
The justice inquires whether he may share a common conference room, law library and copying machine with his former partners and whether his secretary and the former partners' secretary may occasionally cover for each other, without barring those former associates from practicing in the justice's court before the co-justice.
Section 100.5(f) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator, provides:
(f) Practice of law ... No judge who is permitted to practice law shall permit his or her partners or associates to practice law in the court in which he or she is a judge. No judge who is permitted to practice law shall permit the practice of law in his or her court by the partners or associates of another judge of the same court who is permitted to practice law. A judge may permit the practice of law in his or her court by the law partners or associates of a judge of a court in another town, village or city who is permitted to practice law.
Further, section 100.5(c)(1) provides:
(c) Financial activities. (1) A judge shall refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to reflect adversely on impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties, exploit judicial position, or involve the judge in frequent transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court on which he or she serves.
Under the circumstances described here, the justice's former law partners' practice may not appear to be a separate and distinct entity from the justice's law practice, particularly in view of the history of their association, the current sharing of addresses and facilities, and the occasional sharing of fees. Accordingly, the justice's former partners are subject to the same restrictions as a justice's associates under section 100.5(f), and may not practice in the justice's court before either the justice, or any co-justice.