January 24, 2013
Digest: A part-time judge may permit his/her name and likeness to be used in advertising his/her law practice, provided there is no reference to the judge’s judicial status. The judge may not indirectly disclose his/her judicial status in such advertisements by stating that the law firm does not undertake representations in the judge’s court.
Rules: Judiciary Law § 212(2)(l); 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.2(C); 100.6(B)(2)-(5); 22 NYCRR 101.1; 22 NYCRR Part 1200, Rule 7.1; Opinions 10-25; 92-125 (Vol. X).
A part-time judge, a named partner in a law firm,1 asks if the firm may “use [the inquiring judge’s] name and likeness in advertising that the law firm represents clients in criminal defense matters.” The judge says the ads would appear in such locations as “restaurant placemats, telephone directories, newspapers and a billboard.” The judge also asks if the ad must affirmatively say the law firm does not undertake representations in the judge’s court.
A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always act to promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). A part-time judge may practice law subject to certain limitations (see generally 22 NYCRR 100.6[B]-), but must not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).
In interpreting these provisions, the Committee has advised that a part-time judge may advertise his/her law practice, but may not refer to his/her judicial status in such advertisements (see Opinions 10-25; 92-125 [Vol. X]). Accordingly, the inquiring judge may, subject to applicable law,2 permit his/her name and likeness to be in ads for his/her law practice, but only without reference to the judge’s judicial status (see id.; 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not, on their face, require or prohibit any specific disclosures in a judge’s law firm’s advertisements. However, because the restriction on practicing law in the judge’s court arises solely due to the judge’s judicial status (see 22 NYCRR 100.6[B]-,), the Committee believes that affirmatively disclosing the restriction in an ad for the firm could improperly call attention to the judge’s judicial status. Therefore, the inquiring judge must not permit his/her law firm to refer to the practice limitation in its advertisements, as this would be an impermissible, indirect reference to the judge’s judicial status.
1 That is, the judge’s surname is included in the law firm’s name.
2 The Committee cannot comment on any legal issues relating to law firm advertising (see Judiciary Law § 212[l]; 22 NYCRR 101.1; cf. 22 NYCRR Part 1200, Rule 7.1 [lawyer advertising rules]).