Opinion 22-95


June 30, 2022

 

Digest:         A part-time non-attorney judge may remain on the board of directors of a property owners association in another county, even if the association may take delinquent owners to small claims court to recover back dues owed.

 

Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.2(A); 100.4(A)(1)-(3); 100.4(C)(3)(a)(I); 100.4(D)(1)(a)-(c).


Opinion:


         The inquiring part-time non-attorney judge owns property outside the county in which the judge presides, and currently serves on the board of directors of the applicable property owners' association. As a board member, the inquirer oversees the budget prepared by the treasurer and reviews deed restrictions and the association's rules and regulations. The judge anticipates that the association may take delinquent owners to small claims court to recover back dues owed. The judge asks if there is any ethical prohibition to remaining as a member of the board.


         A judge 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 conduct all the judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do not: (1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge; (2) detract from the dignity of judicial office; or (3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not incompatible with judicial office (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A][1]-[3]). A judge also may not engage in financial and business dealings that (a) may reasonably be perceived to exploit the judge's judicial position; (b) involve the judge with any business, organization or activity that ordinarily will come before the judge; or © involve the judge in frequent transactions or continuing business relationships with those lawyers or other persons likely to come before the court on which the judge serves (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[D][1][a]-[c]). Finally, among other limitations, a part-time judge may not serve as an officer or director of an organization that is "likely" to "be engaged in proceedings that ordinarily would come before the judge" (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][a][I]).


         While numerous opinions of the Committee have addressed limitations upon full-time judges serving on the board of directors of an association of property owners, none of those opinions is relevant to the present inquiry by a part-time judge.


          As the inquiring part-time judge's continued board membership is not prohibited by the Rules of Judicial Conduct under the circumstances described, we see no need for the judge to resign from the association's board of directors.