June 16, 1994
Digest: A part-time village justice may serve as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of a Legal Assistance Corporation, which represents indigent clients, subject to the proper performance of all judicial duties.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4, 100.4(c)
A part-time village justice inquires whether he or she may serve as chairperson of the board of directors for the Legal Assistance Corporation which services the county where the judge sits and one other county. The judge has been a board member for four years.
The Legal Assistance Corporation represents indigent members in need of legal assistance in the communities it services, and its staff attorneys do not regularly appear in this judge's court. The basic duties of the board are to review the financial status of the agency and to see that it is complying with the Federal Government's requirements, particularly those of the Legal Services Corporation and its funding for the agency. The board also reviews the Executive Director's performance and salary, staff performance and salary, and the general well-being of the agency.
The inquiring judge agrees that should any attorneys from the agency appear in the village court, the acting village justice, who has no relationship with the agency, would preside.
Section 100.4 of the Rules of Chief Administrator provides:
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 to her....
(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 the justice.
The judge may serve as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Legal Assistance Corporation, bearing in mind any restrictions set forth in the rules.
The Committee distinguishes this fact situation from that addressed in Opinion 88-77, Vol. II, which involved a full-time judge. Here, the inquiring judge is a part-time judge. A part-time judge may practice law, which necessarily entails the representation of one side in a litigation, a circumstance which does not apply to a full-time judge.