NYSBA Ethics Opinion 57

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics Committee Opinion

Opinion #57 – 03/31/1967 (11-67)

Modified by 228
Topic: Conflict or Interest, Part-Time Judge Representing Defendants in Other Courts
Digest: Part-time police justice may defend clients in other courts so long as client is not charged with violation or ordinance within jurisdiction or police justice
Canon: Judicial Canons 24, 31

QUESTION

Is it proper for an Acting Police Justice of an incorporated Village, which position pays no salary, who continues in the private practice of law, to represent defendants in criminal matters in a court other than the court to which he has been appointed?

OPINION

Canon 24 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics provides as follows:”A judge should not accept inconsistent duties nor incur obligations, pecuniary or otherwise, which will in any way interfere or appear to interfere with his devotion to the expeditious and proper administration of his official functions.”Canon 31 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics provides that a judge who is not forbidden to practice law, and does practice, “is in a position of great delicacy and must be scrupulously careful to avoid conduct in his practice whereby he utilizes or seems to utilize his judicial position to further his professional success.””He should not practice in the Court in which he is a judge, even when presided over by another judge, or appear therein for himself in any controversy.”This Committee finds no impropriety in a Police Justice who presides over an inferior court defending persons charged with offenses before another Justice Court, District Court, Supreme Court or Appellate Court, even though privately retained for compensation as long as the defendant is not charged with violating an ordinance of the community in which the attorney acts as Justice. Such practice is permitted by Canon 31 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics, subject to the limitation that the Police Justice so practicing shall scrupulously avoid conduct “whereby he utilizes or seems to utilize his judicial position to further his professional success”.

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