January 24, 2020
This responds to your inquiry (19-139) asking about your obligations with respect to unclaimed bail monies from a case your predecessor fully adjudicated. You note you could not personally have handled the underlying matter because the defendant is your client, but bail was posted by a third party who is not your client. Court staff have attempted, unsuccessfully, to return the monies to the third party who paid them. You are willing to transfer the bail monies to your co-judge, but are uncertain whether that is required.
On these facts, we believe the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not dictate how you handle these unclaimed bail monies from a matter fully adjudicated by your predecessor. Rather, it is primarily a legal question. As we have observed, a judge who decides legal questions in good faith based on apparently controlling statutes, codes, rules and regulations is necessarily acting ethically (see Opinion 19-46). Accordingly, you may, in your discretion, either transfer the bail monies to your co-judge for further handling or take other appropriate steps required or permitted by law.
Enclosed, for your convenience, is Opinion 19-46 which addresses this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice (Ret.)
Appellate Div., First Dep’t
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Supreme Court Justice