January 18, 1990
Digest: A judge should recuse himself from cases handled by a former law partner and current co-stockholder in a corporation, but may hear cases handled by other attorneys in his former partners’ new law firm, provided that no party objects.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(a), 100.3(c)
A full-time judge inquires whether he should recuse himself from cases in which a former law partner, who is a joint stockholder with the judge in a real estate corporation, appears. The judge also inquires whether recusal is necessary where attorneys in the former partner’s new law firm appear before the judge. The judge last practiced law with this former partner thirteen years ago.
Section 100.2(a) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator requires that judges conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary”. In Opinions 89-31 and 89-62, this Committee found that a judge should use his discretion in recusing himself in cases involving a former law partner or the law partner’s new law firm. Here, given that thirteen years have passed since the judge practiced law with his former partner and given that the judge has never practiced with his former partner’s new law firm, the judge need not recuse himself if any member or associate of the new firm appears before him. The judge, however, should disclose his relationship with his former partner to all parties in the case and should recuse himself if any party objects.
The Judge, however, should continue to recuse himself from cases handled by his former law partner, as this partner has a continuing business relationship with the judge, in that they are both stockholders in a small, non-public corporation. Hearing a case involving this business associate would create an appearance of impropriety.