Legal Ethics

NY Rule Will Bar Judges from Hearing Cases if Litigants, Lawyers Made Large Contributions

New York State is tackling the appearance problem caused when judges take campaign contributions from lawyers.

On Tuesday, the state’s chief judge will announce a new rule barring the assignment of cases to judges who, in the last two years, have accepted more than $2,500 in campaign contributions from the lawyers or the litigants, or more than $3,500 from the lawyers’ law firms. The New York Times and the New York Law Journal both have stories on the rule that will be the toughest in the country.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman had supported the measure, adopted on Feb. 1 by the rule-making Administrative Board of the Courts. It won’t take effect until a 60-day comment period has passed.

Lippman told the New York Law Journal that, under the new rule, judges won’t have to “raise their hands” and recuse themselves when they receive large contributions. He told the Times that “nothing could be more important for the judiciary than to have the public see that we’re neutral arbiters of disputes.”

According to the Times, the rule is more restrictive than similar measures adopted recently in Washington, Oklahoma, Michigan and other states.

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