Opinion 20-53

May 20, 2020

Dear :

         This responds to your inquiry (20-53) asking what your ethical obligations are regarding your court attorney who has had “a long work history” with the county Department of Children Youth and Families. Although your court attorney was a senior attorney who frequently appeared in your court, he/she did not hold a supervisory position.

         The Committee has previously advised that a judge must insulate his/her law clerk from cases in which he/she was personally involved during his/her prior public or private employment. Even if the law clerk was not formally assigned to a case, if he/she had any involvement with the case at all, including as a supervisor, he/she must be totally insulated from the matter, and the insulation disclosed to all parties and their counsel. This requirement does not expire, and the insulation cannot be waived or remitted. However, the judge need not necessarily insulate the law clerk from other matters involving his/her former employer or former clients, absent other disqualifying factors or other factors which may create an appearance of impropriety. Once the law clerk has been insulated, the judge may preside over the case provided he/she can be fair and impartial.

         Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 19-110; 18-37; 16-99; 15-233 and 15-43 which address this issue.

                                       Very truly yours,


                                       George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice (Ret.)

                                       Appellate Div., First Dep’t

                                       Committee Co-Chair


                                       Margaret T. Walsh

                                       Supreme Court Justice

                                       Committee Co-Chair