Ethics Opinion 181

By Committee on Professional Ethics

Ethics Opinion 181

Professional Ethics Committee Opinions

Opinion #181 – 03/23/1971 (6-71)

Topic: Practice of part time city judge in courts outside the city
Digest: Part time judge of city court having limited countywide civil and citywide misdemeanor jurisdiction may not properly practice criminal law in courts outside the city, but may practice civil law
Code:  Canon 9; EC 9-2, 9-6; Canons of Judicial Ethics: 31


The judgeship of a city court which has countywide civil jurisdiction up to $500 and citywide misdemeanor jurisdiction is a part time position for which a salary of $6,000 a year is paid. May such city judge practice law in other courts?


It is assumed that nothing in the law prevents private practice by such a judge.A number of opinions of this committee and of the Ethics Committee of the American Bar Association have held that one holding a position of this nature may not with propriety practice criminal law in other courts. ABA 242 (1942); N.Y. State 146 (1970); N.Y. State 146(a)(1970). Such practice would weaken the confidence of the public in the impartiality and objectivity of the judiciary and would be subject to the suspicion that the judge was using the prestige of his position to further his private practice. Canon 9, and see EC 9-2 and 9 and Judicial Canon 31.This committee has ruled that a justice of the peace may practice criminal law in courts outside the territorial jurisdiction of his own court because these positions pay little compensation, the conflict of interest is minor, and it would be difficult to induce lawyers to accept such positions unless they were permitted such practice. The committee is of the opinion that the judge of a city court, even part time, is not such a position in respect to criminal law, and that it would be improper for him to engage in such practice, even outside the city.However, with respect to civil law matters, considering the limited jurisdiction of the court and the salary paid the judge, the committee is of the opinion that the conflict of interest is minimal and that the judge of such a court may properly engage in private practice in civil cases before highest courts in the city or before other courts outside the city.

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