NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATIONProfessional
Ethics Committee Opinion
Opinion #39 - 12/20/1966
Topic: Conflict of Interest, Practice of Law by Part-Time
Digest: Part-time judge should not be employed in any matter
which might be brought before court of which he is a member
Canon: Judicial Canon 31
The acting Judge of one of the City Courts, governed by the City
Court Act, has made a practice of issuing summonses in collection
matters in the City Court signed by her as attorney for the plaintiff.
If no one appears, a default judgment is entered and if someone
appears and makes objection, she will have another lawyer substituted as
attorney for plaintiff. Is this practice proper?
This Committee is of the opinion that the foregoing conduct is not
professionally proper. An acting City Court Judge is
ethically barred from practicing in any fashion in any City Court,
irrespective of who presides therein.
Canon 31 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics specifically provides:
"[A Judge] 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."
The purpose of this Canon is to preserve public confidence in the
integrity of the courts. A Judge should not be employed in
any matters which might be brought before the court of which he is a
member. See ABA Opinion No. 142.
Canon 31 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics also provides:
"If forbidden to practice law, [the Judge] should refrain from
accepting any professional employment while in office,"
This Committee does not pass on questions of law, but it may be
helpful to call attention to the following:
Section 16 of the Judiciary Law provides:
"A judge shall not practice or act as an attorney or counsellor in a
court of which he is, or is entitled to act as a member, or in an
action, claim, matter, motion or proceeding originating in that
And Article IV, Section 20 of the Constitution of the State of New
York provides in part:
"A Judge… of a court for the City of New York established
pursuant to section fifteen of this article who is elected or appointed
after the effective date of this article may not:
"(4) engage in the practice of law, act as an arbitrator, referee or
compensated mediator in any action or proceeding or matter or engage in
the conduct of any other profession or business which interferes with
the performance of his judicial duties."