Opinion 95-01

January 19, 1995


Digest:         A full-time judge should divest himself or herself of investment property owned jointly with a police officer if the police officer will appear frequently before the judge. If the police officer’s appearances will be infrequent, the judge should recuse from matters involving the police officer, subject to the rules governing disclosure and remittal.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.3(c); 100.5(c); 100.3(d)


         A recently elected full-time judge who will be handling felony cases, owns a piece of real property, for investment, with a police officer who is employed by a town in the judge’s jurisdiction. The judge anticipates that the police officer will work on felony cases that may come before the judge. The judge asks whether it is necessary to divest himself or herself of the real property jointly owned with the police officer.

         Section 100.5(c) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator provides in part:


A judge shall refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to reflect adversely on impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties, exploit judicial position, or involve the judge in frequent transaction with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court on which he or she serves.

. . . . . . .


(2) No full-time judge shall be a managing or active participant in any form of business enterprise organized for profit. . . .

         The property here involved is owned jointly with a police officer who is likely to appear before the judge. This Committee has advised that a judge may not rent an apartment to New York State troopers who issue traffic tickets that would come to trial in the judge’s court (Opinion 90-76, Vol. V). Similarly, it would reflect adversely upon the judge’s impartiality to hear cases involving a police officer with whom the judge owns real property. The judge should either dispose of the real property, disqualify himself or herself from cases involving the police officer, or, pursuant to Section 100.3(d) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator, disclose the relationship and obtain the consent of the parties to hear the case. If the judge anticipates that the police officer will frequently appear in cases before the judge, the judge should dispose of the investment.