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Recently Broadcast Opinions


The Committee's published opinions are searchable online and on Westlaw. In addition, many opinions are sent to the Buffalo Law Journal, the Magistrate, the New York Daily Record, and/or the New York Law Journal.

The Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics recently issued the following opinions, which are linked below.

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Special Broadcast - Important Opinions for Local Courts (updated June 20, 2016)

Opinion 16-101"Digest: The effective date of Opinion 15-197(B) is September 1, 2016."

Opinion 15-197(B)"Digest: (1) A town or village justice may not assist the District Attorney by contacting each prosecution witness, complainant and police officer concerning their upcoming court appearances. (2) Opinion 09-173 is hereby amended so that justice courts should not notify such witnesses for the District Attorney, even if the court is willing to do the same for defendants and defense attorneys on request."

 

July 14, 2016 Broadcast

Opinion 15-196 (1) May a judicial candidate who is a law clerk film a campaign commercial depicting a simulated case conference, if his/her responsibilities include conferencing cases on behalf of a judge? If so, what limitations apply? (2) May a recently elected judge preside in cases involving an attorney who previously appeared in the judge's campaign commercial?

Opinion 15-223 (1) May a judge who is co-trustee of a relative's charitable trust authorize the trust to make charitable donations to not-for-profit entities that regularly appear before the judge, such as legal services providers and agencies to which the judge may make referrals? Is disclosure or disqualification required when a recipient of the trust's charitable donations appears before the judge? (2) May a judge as co-trustee of a charitable trust participate in authorizing donations to not-for-profit organizations that seek to influence social policy?

Opinion 16-23 Where a judge has declined to appoint an expert whose competence the judge questions, and the expert has thereafter tried to pressure the judge into appointing him/her, may the judge preside in cases involving the expert?

Opinion 16-32 May a part-time judge who presides over arraignments and other criminal cases serve as part-time in-house counsel for the local sheriff's office?

Opinion 16-36 (1) May an appellate judge who was formerly an equity partner in a large law firm preside in a case involving a party that is a current or former client of the law firm, when represented by a different law firm? (2) How is the disqualification period calculated if there are ongoing financial connections or obligations between the judge and the firm? (3) Must a judge refer to his/her former law firm's conflict databases to determine whether a client relationship exists?

Opinion 16-77 Where an administrative judge has commenced a lawsuit against certain entities and attorneys for alleged misconduct in the judge's court, what are the obligations of judges in that jurisdiction with respect to other cases in which those entities or attorneys appear?

Opinion 16-89 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?

Opinion 16-104 May a village justice permit the court clerk to attend the mayor's regularly scheduled meetings with the village government's department heads?

Opinion 16-105 May a judge subject to article VI, section 20 of the state constitution sign a separate oath of office for a county legislature's law-related advisory board?

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June 20, 2016 Broadcast

Opinion 15-150 Where a judge's first-degree relative is a non-supervisory staff attorney for an insurance company, who will not work on any cases in the New York State courts, what are the judge's obligations when that company appears before him/her as a party or as insurance carrier for a party?

Opinion 15-153 Must a judge report to the probation department that an individual appearing before the judge has violated his/her probation?

Opinion 15-165 May a judge provide the court's internal weekly case summaries to a newspaper for publication?

Opinion 15-169 Where a judge is receiving ongoing restitution installment payments from an individual, payable through a court-ordered intermediary organization, may the judge preside in unrelated cases where that entity's attorneys appear? Is disclosure required?

Opinion 15-171 May a full-time judge serve as an officer for a not-for-profit fraternal organization, serve as a non-legal advisor to the organization on matters of parliamentary procedure, and chair the organization's scholarship committee? May a judge sell raffle tickets benefiting the organization to family members? To friends?

Opinion 15-172 Where a judge's law clerk is the former District Attorney, what are the judge's obligations when the District Attorney's office appears?

Opinion 15-173 May a judge write a letter supporting a court officer's request to be assigned to the judge's courthouse?

Opinion 15-175 May a town or village justice permit the court's sole court clerk to maintain concurrent clerical employment at a substance abuse facility?

Opinion 15-178 In a court where judges repeatedly receive attempted ex parte communications from elected officials on behalf of their constituents, what steps should the judges take?

Opinion 15-185 What are a court attorney-referee's obligations when an attorney appearing before him/her is the sibling of the referee's close personal friend?

Opinion 15-190 May a judge serve on the board of directors for a not-for-profit agency with a broad educational mission that includes certain traffic safety education programs to which the judge may make referrals?

Opinion 15-206 Must a judge disclose or disqualify him/herself when the judge's child's election opponent appears before the judge as an attorney?

Opinion 15-208 Where a judge is personally disqualified from certain cases, may he/she nonetheless permit his/her personally appointed principal law clerk to conference those cases, at the request of the presiding judge?

Opinion 15-219 Where a judge appears on a not-for-profit organization's regular letterhead as a board member, may the judge permit the organization to include his/her name along with other board members on the organization's fund-raising invitations? Must the listing be absolutely identical or literally reproduce the regular letterhead?

Opinion 15-232 May a judge, on his/her own initiative and before the parties' first appearance, request and review grand jury minutes and/or discovery materials produced to the defense?

Opinion 16-01 May a judge who is a member of a law school reunion committee be a signatory or listed as a committee member on a letter that encourages and solicits alumni donations? Or on a letter inviting alumni to attend an upcoming law school reunion event which is not a fund-raiser?

Opinion 16-02 May a judge partner with, or commit the court to partner with, entities applying for a grant to create a domestic violence advocacy program? May the judge or the court participate in the ongoing administration of the resulting advocacy program?

Opinion 16-05 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?

Opinion 16-08 May a full-time City Court judge accept a temporary assignment as a Family Court judge?

Opinion 16-44 Where a judge's non-lawyer spouse works for a global insurance company in a mid-level position, with no litigation responsibilities, what are the judge's obligations when that insurance company appears before him/her?

Opinion 16-48 (1) Must a judge who ordered a transcript to be redacted provide an unredacted copy to counsel on request? (2) Is a judge disqualified from presiding in a case where a party and his/her spouse are long-time acquaintances of the judge's spouse and an associate in that party's law firm served as the judge's court attorney more than a decade ago? (3) Must a judge report an attorney if he/she believes the attorney is improperly attempting to include personal information about the judge's family in the record?

Opinion 16-49 How long is a judge disqualified from matters involving an attorney he/she reported to the grievance committee?

Opinion 16-51 May a full-time judge serve on the board of a not-for-profit community economic development corporation?

Opinion 16-53 May a town or village justice permit the court clerk to serve as an acting justice of the same court?

Opinion 16-54 May a judge preside in a matter involving a defendant who (a) is a judge in the same geographic region and (b) previously had some minimal political and professional connections with the judge’s current law secretary? Is disclosure required?

Opinion 16-56 May a judge decline to solemnize all marriages? If so, may court staff refer the couple to another wedding officiant?

Opinion 16-58 May a part-time judge conduct background investigations for the United States Office of Personnel Management?

Opinion 16-59 May a judge who previously served as a local prosecutor for a lightly populated municipality for many years, ending over a decade ago, preside in a case involving high-profile allegations of recent misconduct by the local police?

Opinion 16-60 May a judge join an informal discussion group with politically connected people to develop detailed proposals for redistricting reform, comprehensive election and voting reforms, restructuring the legislature, changes in school funding, and other highly controversial or political matters?

Opinion 16-62 May a judge who is a respondent in a CPLR Article 78 proceeding seeking to annul/vacate the judge's order in a pending criminal case comment on the criminal case in his/her answer or appearance in the proceeding?

Opinion 16-63 (1) When does a non-judge who has been appointed to judicial office become subject to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct? (2) May a part-time judge publicly display on his/her office building a non-partisan banner stating “Your vote counts in ___ County”? (3) May a part-time attorney judge's attorney tenant appear before other co-judges of the judge's court, where the judge and the tenant (a) share a fax machine and fax number which is included in their respective stationery, (b) occasionally cover court appearances for each other, and/or (c) permit the judge’s receptionist to answer phone calls for the tenant?

Opinion 16-66 Where an attorney's representation of the judge's second-degree relative ended two years ago, but the judge knows the attorney has an outstanding judgment for unpaid legal fees, what are the judge's obligations in matters where that attorney appears?

Opinion 16-67 Where a judge's first-degree relative heads the local probation department, what are the judge's obligations in matters where the department's employees appear?

Opinion 16-69 May a judge serve as master of ceremonies for a not-for-profit community organization’s event honoring local religious leaders and a local executive branch official, where “all the proceeds will benefit the youth program”?

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May 12, 2016 Broadcast

Opinion 15-94 What are the obligations of a judge who receives reliable information that a more senior judge, who has administrative or supervisory responsibilities, displayed impatient, discourteous, and undignified behavior on the bench, made unprovoked threats to alter another judge's order in the case sua sponte to suit the more senior judge's personal preferences, and repeatedly refused to consider or decide the issues before him/her?

Opinion 15-151 May a village justice continue as a client of a salesperson whose spouse is the village prosecutor?

Opinion 15-157 Must a court attorney referee take any action on learning that an attorney briefly spoke to a witness about subpoenaed materials during a recess?

Opinion 15-163 What are the obligations of a judge who learns that an attorney appearing before him/her made a charitable donation to honor the judge’s deceased relative?

Opinion 15-164 May a judge whose first-degree relative is a part-time attorney for the county department of social services preside in criminal cases alleging welfare fraud where the agency is the victim or complainant?

Opinion 15-188 May a judge become involved in legislative redistricting under the facts presented?

Opinion 15-193 May a judge write to the director of a federally funded medical facility to express appreciation for care provided to the judge's deceased parent? May the judge send copies of such a letter to federal legislators?

Opinion 15-197(A) May a town justice assist prosecutors by (a) arranging meetings with the prosecutor’s prospective witnesses and/or (b) instructing such witnesses to bring lab reports or other possible evidentiary materials to court?

Opinion 15-198 May a judge attend a magistrates’ association meeting held at a local correctional facility?

Opinion 15-200 May a full-time judge serve in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps?

Opinion 15-203 May a full-time judge who presides in a treatment court serve on a legislator’s advisory committee on drug abuse?

Opinion 15-205 May a part-time judge serve as Corporation Counsel?

Opinion 15-210 May a judge be a member of the Shooters Committee on Political Education?

Opinion 15-227 May a judge whose spouse is actively involved in the not-for-profit American Israel Public Affairs Committee attend a non-political dinner at which the judge’s spouse and other financial supporters will be recognized?

Opinion 16-14 What are a judge's obligations with respect to (a) his/her former colleagues at a private law firm, (b) individuals who supported his/her election campaign in various capacities, (c) his/her former subordinates in a government law office, and (d) his/her law clerk's former private law firm employer?

Opinion 16-21 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?

Opinion 16-25 May a judge notify a police officer’s commander of the officer’s non-compliance with a legal mandate?

Opinion 16-28 May a Family Court judge preside in matters involving an agency that has hired the judge's first-degree relative for a part-time entry-level job, given that the agency is one where the county department of social services may place a child?

Opinion 16-30 May a judge preside in matters involving assistant public defenders subject to the supervision of a Public Defender who, in his/her former capacity as a private attorney, had preliminarily and briefly represented the judge in a disciplinary proceeding one year ago?

Opinion 16-31 What are a judge’s obligations on learning that a lawyer or law firm appearing before him/her is opposing counsel to the judge’s attorney spouse in an unrelated action in another court? May the judge continue to preside? Is disclosure required?

Opinion 16-34 May a full-time judge participate as one of several panelists and mentors at a commercial entity's free luncheon for young people of a particular minority group, when commercial entity has assured the judge in writing that the event is entirely philanthropic, the judge's participation will not be used for promotional purposes, and no commercial activity whatsoever will take place at the event?

Opinion 16-35 May a judge attend, as a guest, a fund-raising event held by a not-for-profit law enforcement organization? May the judge make donations to the entity?

Opinion 16-37 May a full-time judge enter into an option/purchase agreement with a film producer, for a screenplay the judge wrote?

Opinion 16-38 May a judge presiding in a large urban criminal court write a reference for a police officer seeking to be promoted based on personal knowledge of the officer, which predates the judge’s assumption of judicial office?

Opinion 16-39 What are a judge's obligations with respect to reporting attorneys for improper use of their firm's IOLA account?

Opinion 16-42 May a judge sign a final decree of judicial settlement pursuant to SCPA § 2602(1)(b), following disqualification of the judge who issued the underlying decision?

Opinion 16-43 May a criminal court judge who previously presided over an ex parte search warrant application later arraign (1) a confidential informant who testified in support of the warrant and/or (2) the target of the search warrant? Is disclosure or disqualification required?

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April 13, 2016 Broadcast

Opinion 15-113 May a judge be the introductory speaker at a Criminal Justice Services Division program focused on discouraging gun violence among probationers and parolees who have no pending charges, where the event will take place at a courthouse, and participants include prosecutors, law enforcement, the Legal Aid Society, social service providers, and community leaders?

Opinion 15-133 May a judge attend a foreign consulate’s reception for its ambassador? May a judge speak at the consulate about the judge’s personal experiences in becoming a jurist?

Opinion 15-183 What are a judge's disciplinary obligations after learning that a police report contains a defendant’s unconfirmed, but also un-denied, claim that an assistant public defender directed a racial/ethnic slur toward the defendant?

Opinion 15-189 What are a judge's obligations on learning of substantial and troubling irregularities in his/her court arising from the conduct of a former town court clerk, as well as possibly improper behavior by a former town justice?

Opinion 15-209 May a part-time judge consult ex parte with court personnel who staff the City, Town and Village Courts Resource Center? Must there be notice and/or disclosure to the parties in the case?

Opinion 15-220 If applicable law authorizes certain judges to delegate the authority to accept guilty pleas and set fines in certain matters, is it ethically permissible for such judges to delegate that authority under the applicable statutory scheme?

Opinion 15-226 May a judge order payment to a former guardian ad litem for services which pre-date the attorney's employment with the Unified Court System? Does it matter if the former guardian ad litem now serves as principal law clerk to another judge (i.e., one who is not presiding in the case)?

Opinion 16-15 May a full-time judge accept an honorarium for giving the "lesson for the day" at a worship service?

Opinion 16-16 May a judge who presided over two related civil actions preside over the losing party’s subsequent malpractice action against its former counsel?

Opinion 16-18 May a judge serve as a character reference for a court intern who has applied for a pistol permit?

Opinion 16-20 May a judge whose prior service as an assistant attorney general ended five years ago preside in matters involving the Attorney General's office?

Opinion 16-26 Must a Court of Claims judge disclose or disqualify him/herself from cases involving the Attorney General’s office, based solely on media efforts to link the judge and his/her spouse with a person whom the Attorney General is investigating?

Opinion 16-33 May a judge write a letter on behalf of a family member who has a criminal case pending in another state? Does it make a difference if the judge does not reveal his/her judicial status but writes solely in his/her personal capacity as the defendant's relative and as an individual who has previous professional experience as a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and a quasi-judicial official?

Opinion 16-40 May a judge who is a member and officer of a specialized bar association sign the association’s certificate of incorporation?

Opinion 16-41 May a judge, at the request of an attorney who recently appeared before him/her as the subject of a Treatment Court proceeding, voluntarily testify in the attorney’s disciplinary proceeding?

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March 25, 2016 Broadcast

(See archive for additional opinions broadcast on this date.)

Opinion 16-04 May a judge participate in a bar association’s membership drive and recruit new attorney members with a complimentary one year membership?

Opinion 16-06 May a full-time judge who wrote a children’s book: participate in book signings; spread the news that the book has been published; give away complimentary copies of the book; tell people, on request, where the book may be purchased; permit the publisher to mention the judge’s judicial status; appear in judicial robes on the book’s back cover; and/or read the book at an elementary school? Do any special restrictions apply because the work is a children’s book rather than a law-related book?

Opinion 16-11 May a judge who is a defendant in a bank’s foreclosure action preside over an unrelated action in which a party has subpoenaed records from the bank, where the bank is a mere stakeholder which has not appeared or taken a position regarding the subpoena?

Opinion 16-13 May a newly appointed part-time judge continue to represent a client on cases which not only originated in the judge’s court, but were previously handled by the inquiring judge’s predecessor on that court, and were transferred to another local court only after the inquiring judge assumed the bench?

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March 17, 2016 Broadcast

(See archive for additional opinions broadcast on this date.)

Opinion 16-03 Where a judge's spouse is a statewide information security officer for the state police and internally advises that agency on technology issues, must the judge disclose the relationship or disqualify him/herself in cases involving the state police?

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