January 13, 2020
This responds to your inquiry (19-142) asking if you must recall warrants on a defendant’s failure to pay a fine and/or surcharge due to recent revisions in the Criminal Procedure Law, and if you may enter a civil judgment for the unpaid amount.
As these questions require interpreting the Criminal Procedure Law and other statutes or case law, rather than the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, we cannot address them. We note, however, that a judge who acts in accordance with his/her good-faith legal determination of these issues necessarily acts ethically, even if the decision is reversed on appeal (see e.g. Opinions 19-20; 18-49; 18-57/17-166 [“a judge does not violate [Part 100] by fulfilling his/her statutory powers, functions, and duties as a licensing officer in good-faith reliance on statutory authority and administrative guidance on how to exercise that authority”]).
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 19-20; 18-57/17-166; and 18-49 which address this issue.
Finally, in case it may be helpful, we understand OCA has established a Criminal Justice Legislation Implementation Committee to offer guidance on these developing legal issues. Please see their website for more information: https://nycourts.sharepoint.com/sites/CJL/SitePages/Home.aspx.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc Justice
Appellate Div., First Dept. (Ret)
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Supreme Court Justice