September 22, 1994
Digest: A full-time judge seeking reelection who appears before a bar association's judicial screening committee does not need to recuse himself/herself from those cases wherein an attorney who sits on the screening committee appears before the judge, nor must the judge disclose that fact to opposing counsel. Additionally, the judge does not have to recuse himself/herself from appeals taken from decisions of a part-time City Court judge who sits on the committee.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.3(c), 100.7
A full-time judge seeking reelection states that he/she has been invited to appear before a judicial screening committee of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. That committee includes attorneys who appear before the judge, as well as a part-time City Court judge whose decisions are subject to review on appeal by the inquiring judge.
The judge's inquiries are as follows: (1) when an attorney who sits on the screening committee appears before the judge, must the judge make this fact known to opposing counsel; (2) must the judge recuse himself/herself from appeals taken from the City Court presided over by the part-time judge who sits on the screening committee; and (3) is it appropriate for the committee to require the judge to sign a waiver of the privilege of confidentiality with respect to any information relating to the candidate and developed by an official agency.
Section 100.7 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts prohibits certain political activity of judges. However, appearing before a bar association's judicial screening committee is not a prohibited activity. It is a common practice of local bar associations to evaluate the qualifications of candidates for the bench. A refusal by a judge to appear could result in serious repercussions to the judge's candidacy, especially if bar association or screening committee approval is a requirement of the political body nominating or appointing the judge.
Section 100.3(c) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator provides that a judge shall disqualify himself/herself in a proceeding in which his/her impartiality might reasonably be questioned. Based upon the facts presented, this Committee can see no reason for the judge to recuse himself/herself, as it does not appear that the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned by virtue of the judge's appearance before the screening committee.
Regarding the inquiry about the appropriateness of the screening committee requiring the judge to sign a waiver of the privilege of confidentiality, this is not a question of judicial ethics; it is a personal decision for the judge to make. Finally, it is to be noted that we do not pass upon the propriety of a part-time judge serving on the bar association's screening committee. See Opinion 88-100. Vol. II, and Joint Opinions 89-116 and 89-121, Vol. IV.