June 7, 1990
Digest: A judge must recuse himself or herself in any case involving a fire, where the judge assisted in the actual fire fighting.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.3(c)(1), 100.3(c)(1)(i), 100.3(d).
A judge, who also is a member of a local volunteer fire company, asks whether it is permissible to preside over matters arising from a fire which the judge personally assisted in fighting .
Section 100.3(c)(1)(i) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts provides:
A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which his or her impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including, but not limited to circumstances where:
The judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding.
Clearly, this provision mandates the judge's disqualification in any matter where the judge has personal knowledge of disputed facts. The judge's role as a fire fighter in connection with the particular matter before the judge may give the judge personal knowledge of facts which may be disputed by the parties. Accordingly, the judge may not preside over the matter, even if he or she discloses on the record the role as a fire fighter and obtains the consent of the parties to preside, as section 100.3(d) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator does not provide for remittal of disqualification in matters where the judge has personal knowledge of disputed facts. Without passing on whether the judge should resign from the fire department, in a case involving a fire which the judge helped fight, the judge should disqualify himself or herself.