Opinion 20-167

October 29, 2020


Digest:         There is no ethical incompatibility between foster parenthood and part-time judicial office.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.2(B); 100.3(E)(1); Opinions 07-178.



         The inquirer is a certified foster parent who plans to run for a part-time town or village justice position and asks if it is permissible for a part-time judge to also serve as a foster parent. The inquirer’s concern is that the positions might be incompatible because a justice could be asked to hear cases involving endangering the welfare of a child or other similar charges.

         A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2), must respect and comply with the law, and must always act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). A judge must “not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment” (22 NYCRR 100.2[B]). Judges must also disqualify themselves in proceedings where their impartiality “might reasonably be questioned” (22 NYCRR 100.3[E][1]).

         As we have noted in other contexts, “a person elected or appointed to judicial office does not forfeit his/her rights or responsibilities as a parent” (Opinion 07-178). We see no reason to treat foster parents differently from other parents. Nor is a judge prohibited from pursuing parenthood merely because they might, as a judge, hear cases involving other parents or other children.

         Indeed, we expect any judge presiding in a case involving child endangerment or other charges will preside impartially, unswayed by impermissible considerations, regardless of their parental or non-parental status.