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Answer Key for the Judicial Ethics Quiz


Check your answers below and scroll all the way down for your score.

1. Yes/No: Where a municipality has previously declined to add court officers' names to a memorial honoring first responders who died during rescue efforts following a terrorist attack, may a judge nonetheless write a letter urging the municipality to add those names?

Answer: Yes, provided there will be no fund-raising. The judge should write his/her own letter (rather than using a form letter) to minimize the risk of inadvertently violating generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct. Also, if the judge wishes to use judicial stationery, it must be marked "personal and unofficial." See Opinion 16-89.

2. Yes/No: Must a judge report to the probation department that an individual appearing before the judge has violated his/her probation?

Answer: No. A judge is not ethically required to report possible misconduct or criminal activities of a litigant, witness, or other non-lawyer/non-judge who appears before him/her. Of course the judge still may, if he/she deems it appropriate in his/her sole discretion, report the possible misconduct to an appropriate authority. See Opinion 15-153.

3. Select One: Where a judge's law clerk is the former District Attorney, what is the judge's obligation in cases involving that office? Your choices are:
(a) Judge must disqualify him/herself, subject to remittal, in all cases involving the DA's office for two years;
(b) Judge must disclose and insulate the law clerk in all cases involving the DA's office for two years;
(c) Judge must disclose and insulate the law clerk in all cases that arose during his/her former tenure as DA; or
(d) Judge must disclose and insulate the law clerk in all cases in which he/she participated personally and substantially as the DA.

Answer: (c). Unlike a law clerk who previously served as an assistant district attorney, this law clerk's former position as the District Attorney necessarily involved him/her in all prosecutions during his/her tenure, as he/she was the attorney of record who bore ultimate responsibility for these cases. (A law clerk's conflict can ordinarily be dealt with through insulation and disclosure of the law clerk, rather than the judge's disqualification. In other words, the law clerk's conflict, standing alone, generally cannot cause the judge's impartiality to "reasonably be questioned.") See Opinion 15-172.

4. Yes/No: May a full-time judge participate in non-commercial podcasts about New York legal issues, or science fiction and comic book characters and legal issues that may arise in fictional works?

Answer: Yes, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct, such as the public comment rule. The judge may be identified as a judge, but his/her participation must not be used to promote or market the podcast. See Opinion 16-05.

5. Short Answer: How long is a judge disqualified from matters involving an attorney he/she reported to the grievance committee?

Answer: For two years after the disciplinary matter is fully concluded. Such disqualification is not subject to remittal unless the attorney has waived confidentiality regarding the disciplinary proceeding. See Opinion 16-49.

6. Yes/No: May a judge be a member of the Shooters Committee on Political Education?

Answer: Yes, provided such membership does not involve the judge in organizational litigation or publicly associate him/her with organizational positions on matters of public controversy. However, judge may not assume a leadership position in the organization. Critical to the "yes" answer here is the Committee's determination that the entity is not a "political organization" under the Rules. See Opinion 15-210; compare also e.g. Opinion 15-77 (contributing to Planned Parenthood) with Opinion 14-117 (contributing to several categories of entities).

7. Select One: May a town justice preside over a bench trial, where a town board member who votes on the judge's salary is a necessary witness whose credibility the judge must evaluate? Your choices are:
(a) Yes, because the town board member is only a witness, and not a party.
(b) Yes, provided the judge fully discloses the relationship.
(c) No, the judge is always disqualified and remittal is not available.
(d) No, the judge is disqualified, but the disqualification is subject to remittal.

Answer: (d). See Opinion 16-21.

8. Yes/No: May a judge serve as a character reference for a court intern who has applied for a pistol permit?

Answer: No. A judge must not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of another or voluntarily testify as a character witness. See Opinion 16-18.

9. Yes/No: May a judge who presides over a re-adoption proceeding involving an attorney (who is otherwise an "acquaintance" per 11-125) thereafter preside in matters involving the attorney and/or his/her law firm?

Answer: Yes, provided the judge believes he/she can be fair and impartial. Disclosure is not required. See Opinion 15-228.

10. Yes/No: May a judge respond to an inquiry from an Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commission regarding the qualifications of a candidate for judicial office in another judicial district?

Answer: Yes, provided the response is made on personal knowledge. (A key factor here is that the judge is responding to an official inquiry from a ratings panel, rather than publicly endorsing or opposing the candidate.) See Opinion 16-90.

 

Score

0-6: It's time to update your knowledge of judicial ethics. Click "Education Programs" for information about upcoming programs.

7-8: Well done. Just be sure to stay on top of the latest developments by reading the Committee's opinions as they are made available.

9-10: Keep up the great work. And don't forget to contact the Advisory Committee if you have specific questions about your own prospective conduct as a judge or quasi-judicial official.

 

How to keep up with the latest Advisory Committee opinions

Most new opinions are distributed to sitting judges by broadcast email and are also sent to the Buffalo Law Journal, the New York Daily Record, the New York Law Journal and/or The Magistrate. Once they are broadcast, new opinions are also listed on the "Recently Broadcast Opinions" page. In addition, all published opinions are made available on our website, and may be searched electronically by selecting "Search Opinions" from the left-hand menu.