Ethics Opinion 374

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Committee on Professional Ethics

Opinion #374 – 02/26/1975 (59-74)

Overruled by #548
Topic: Law firm partner’s spouse as judge’s secretary
Digest: Law firm prohibited from practicing before judge during the employment by the judge of a partner’s spouse as his secretary
Code: Canon 9

QUESTION

Does the employment of the spouse of a law firm partner as a part-time secretary to a judge make it improper for the law firm to practice before the judge?

OPINION

If a law firm partner took a position as a part-time secretary to a judge, there is no doubt that the practice of the law firm before the judge would be improper since the partner’s obvious prohibition from practicing before the judge would extend to his partners and associates. N.Y. State 278 (1973); N.Y. State 257 (1972).In view of the intimate relationship between man and wife, the law firm’s practice before the judge who employs the partner’s spouse would create an appearance of professional impropriety substantially equal, in the eyes of a layman, to that created if the partner himself or herself were employed by the judge. This would contravene Canon 9, which admonishes lawyers to avoid even the appearance of professional impropriety.   Hence the law firm should not practice before the judge during the spouse’s employment as his secretary. Cf. N.Y. State 244 (1972); N.Y. City 865 (1964).

Six diverse people sitting holding signs
gradient circle (purple) gradient circle (green)

Join NYSBA

My NYSBA Account

My NYSBA Account