NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATIONProfessional
Ethics Committee Opinion
Opinion #65 - 10/16/1967
Topic: Conflict of Interest, Partners of Judge
Digest: Partners of acting village police court Judge may not appear
before regular judge of the court
Canon: Judicial Canon 31
A, B & C comprise a law partnership. A is a Town Justice of
the Peace. A village (wholly within the town) has a Police Justice
Court with a Police Justice and Acting Police Justice. Frequently
both the Police Justice and Acting Police Justice are out of town and on
such occasions attorney A acts as an Acting Police Justice for the
Is it ethical for the A, B & C partnership to practice in the
Village Police Justice's Court?
It is ethically improper for any of the A, B & C partners or
their associates to practice in the Village Police Justice Court.
Under section 60 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (as amended L 1967
Chapter 681 eff. September 1, 1967)a Justice of the Peace in a town
which includes a village where the office of Police Justice is
established "during the absence or inability of the Police Justice and
Acting Police Justice, if any, to perform the duties of the office of
the Police Justice, shall have jurisdiction to hear, try and determine
charges of any offense other than a felony committed within
that part of the village located within the town…".
Section 471 of the Judiciary Law provides in part that a law partner
of, or a person connected in the law business with a judge, shall not
practice or act as an attorney or counsellor, in a court, of which the
judge is, or is entitled to act as a member,…." (underscore
Since this committee does not pass upon questions of law, we do not
reach the legal question as to whether the statutory prohibition of
section 471 of the Judiciary Law directly applies to a Police Justice
court. However, in Opinion #29 - 5/20/66 (14-65) we stated that as
an ethical matter" the same rule should apply to a Justice Court or
other court not of record. Adopting the same reasoning we believe
that since attorney A is “entitled to act as a member" of the
Justice Court, A, B & C either as individuals or as a law
partnership, are ethically prohibited from practicing before that court
under Judicial Canon 31.
Public confidence in our courts cannot be maintained under a system
which permits a person to act as a judge one day and on the next day to
appear (or his law partner) as an advocate in the same court.