Opinion 94-74

September 22, 1994


Digest:         A part-time village justice who is also a high school teacher may not preside over cases involving present students but may (1) hear cases involving former students as long as he/she can be impartial, (2) teach adult education classes and preside over moot court proceedings, and (3) participate in the collective bargaining process as a member of a faculty-association committee negotiating for wages and benefits, if the negotiation is with the school district as an entity separate from that of the village.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.3(c), (d), 100.4(a), 1OO.5(h)


         A part-time judge who is also a high school teacher asks six questions. The first two deal with the propriety of the judge presiding over cases which involve current or former students.

         Sections 100.3(c) and (d) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts delineate situations where judges must recuse themselves or consider recusal. It is the Committee's opinion that the judge may preside over cases of former students (provided, of course, that the judge believes he or she can be impartial), but should not hear cases involving current students of the judge.

         The judge's next three questions involve educational matters: (1) whether the judge may preside over a moot court trial; (2) whether the judge may teach a “street law” class to high school students, which would include basic discussion on topics such as landlord/tenant law, family law, contracts and civil procedure; and (3) whether the judge may teach an adult education class on matter of personal law, such as landlord-tenant law.

         Educational activities are to be encouraged as exemplary extra-judicial activities and are proper pursuant to the Rules of the Chief Administrator. Section 100.4 of the Rules states, in part, as follows:


A judge, subject to the proper performance of has 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 ...

         Based upon Section 100.4 of the Rules, the judge may preside over a moot court as well as teach a basic high school law course and adult education classes.

         Lastly, the judge inquiries whether he or she may be part of faculty-association negotiating committee taking part in negotiating an agreement for wages and benefits.

         Section 100.5(h) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator provides that a part-time judge may accept private or public employment provided that such is not incompatible with his or her judicial office and does not conflict or interfere with the proper performance of his or her judicial duties. Thus, there is no prohibition preventing the judge from sitting on such a negotiating committee as long as the judge's court does not become the forum of any legal proceeding emanating from such negotiations. We assume that such negotiations will not be with the Village of which he/she is a Village Justice, but with a school district that is a municipal corporation separate from that of the Village.