Opinion 22-10


March 7, 2022



Dear : 


         This responds to your inquiry (22-10) asking if you are disqualified from cases filed by a law firm in which your second cousin is a partner.


         The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct require a judge to disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the “judge knows that the judge or the judge’s spouse, or a person known by the judge to be within the fourth degree of relationship to either of them, or the spouse of such a person, is acting as a lawyer in the proceeding or is likely to be a material witness in the proceeding” (22 NYCRR 100.3[E][1][d]).


         We have said that, provided a judge is confident in his/her ability to be fair and impartial, a judge need not disclose nor exercise recusal when any staff member of the District Attorney, who is the judge’s first cousin once removed, appears before the judge (Opinion 07-06). We observed that the child of the judge’s first cousin, i.e., the judge’s first cousin once removed was the judge’s fifth degree relative, and, therefore, beyond the kinship which requires disqualification (id.).


In this circumstance, the Rules do not require disqualification or disclosure, as your relationship with your second cousin is in the sixth degree (see Opinion 09-33; 22 NYCRR 100.0[C]). Still, we believe it is good practice to disclose the relationship.  If anyone objects or requests recusal, your decision remains discretionary depending on your assessment of the relationship and any other pertinent circumstances (id.).


         Enclosed for your convenience are Opinions 09-33; 07-06 which address this issue.


                                                 Very truly yours,



                                                 Margaret T. Walsh

                                                 Supreme Court Justice

                                                Committee Co-Chair


                                                 Lillian Wan

                                                 Supreme Court Justice

                                                 Committee Co-Chair