March 16, 1992
Digest: A judge should not preside over matters in which a law firm appears which had terminated as unsuccessful the employment of the judge's spouse four years ago, a partner of which firm abstained from voting on the judge's qualifications before the bar association at the judge's request, and about which firm the judge is alleged to have made negative remarks.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.2.
A judge asks whether recusal is required at the request of a law firm, which had unsuccessfully employed the judge's spouse four years ago, terminating the spouse's employment under unpleasant circumstances, in any case where that firm appears before the judge. Two years ago, the judge had requested that a member of that law firm, who was also a member of a bar association judiciary committee, abstain from voting on the judge's qualifications. The judge is alleged to have made some disparaging remarks about the firm, although the remarks actually were limited to a particular attorney in the firm. The judge sits in a large city with at least two other judges sitting in parts which handle the same type of cases in which the law firm specializes and frequently appears.
In principle, there is no objection to a judge sitting in a case where a firm of attorneys appears before the judge, with which firm the judge's spouse had an unpleasant or unsuccessful employment experience several years before. However, in the present case, two years ago, when the judge appeared before the bar association judiciary committee, the judge asked that a member of the firm abstain from voting on the judge's qualifications. Further, the judge made negative remarks about an attorney in the firm, and it is alleged, although not correctly, negative remarks about the firm.
On the totality of the circumstances in this case, the judge should recuse himself or herself for an indefinite period of time in matters in which the firm appears before the judge.