March 11, 1999
A part-time judge, who practices law, may preside over a small claims proceeding
against a party who has entered into a business contract with a client
of the judge in an unrelated matter.
22 NYCRR 100.2(E); 100.3(E)(1)(c).
A part-time Town Justice, who is a practicing attorney, inquires if he/she may preside over a small claims proceeding against a party who has entered into a business contract with a client of the judge unrelated to the matter before the judge.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct require disqualification in any proceeding
in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including
situations in which the judge has an economic interest in the matter or
has an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of
the proceeding. 22 NYCRR 100.3(E); 100.3(E)(1)(c). In the instant matter,
the inquiring justice has no direct relationship with the party; the matter
in litigation is unrelated to the judge's legal representation of the client;
and the outcome of the litigation will not affect the contractual relationship
between the judge's client and the party. Nor is there any indication that
in representing the client in that matter the judge has acquired knowledge
or information that might have an impact on the judge in the case at issue.
Under such circumstances, there is no apparent reason why the judge may