January 24, 1991
Digest: A part-time city court judge may serve as an arbitrator with a private arbitration association and need not recuse himself or herself in matters where the city attorney appears, and may serve as an officer of an organization which promotes the effectiveness of the justice system, provided such activities do not interfere or conflict with judicial duties.
Rules: 22 NYCRR §§100.5(e); 100.1,2,3,4.
A part-time city court judge presents the following questions:
(1) May he or she serve as an arbitrator of a private arbitration association?
( 2) Having been appointed judge by the city mayor, may the judge preside in matters where the city attorney appears?
(3) May the judge serve as president of an organization which plans, develops, evaluates and studies projects to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the justice system and other law related and social programs?
Section 100.5(e) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator provides:
No judge, other than a part-time judge, shall act as an arbitrator or mediator. A part-time judge acting as an arbitrator or mediator shall do so with particular regard to Sections 100.1, 100.2 and 100.3 of this part.
The judge may serve as an arbitrator provided the judge complies with those sections, and upholds the independence of the judiciary (22 NYCRR 100.1), avoids impropriety and the appearance of impropriety (22 NYCRR 100.2), and impartially and diligently performs his or her judicial duties (22 NYCRR 100.3).
Although both the judge and the city attorney are employees of the city, there is no inherent conflict arising from the relationship of their being co-employees of the city, barring other disqualifying factors required by the Rules of Judicial Conduct. See, Opinions 88-52 (Vol. 11) and 89-87 (Vol. IV) of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics. Accordingly, the judge may preside over cases where the city attorney appears.
Section 100.4 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator provides in part:
100.4 Activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice. A judge, subject to the proper performance of his or her judicial duties, may engage in the following quasi-judicial activities, if in doing so the judge does not cause doubt on the capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before him or her:
(a) A judge may speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice.
. . . . . . . .
(c) A judge may serve as a member, officer or director of an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. He or she may assist such an organization in raising funds and may participate in their management and investment, but shall not personally participate in public fund-raising activities. He or she may make recommendations to public and private fund-granting agencies on projects and programs concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice.
The judge’s participation in the organization is in harmony with this rule. However, in so serving, the judge must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety, and should disqualify himself or herself in any matters involving the organization.