Is it legal for a judge and a lawyer to socialize i.e. go out for drinks together, play golf together, etc. ? Must judge recuse?
2 attorney answers
There is no prohibition against lawyers and judges socializing in most instances. They are not permitted to discuss any pending cases before the Judge and it is unethical for any consideration to be given by either in connection with a pending case. If the lawyer has a pending trial before a Judge and, while the trial is still ongoing, the lawyer and Judge go out for a drink or play golf together, that by itself would not necessarily be prohibited but it would be questionable and might warrant some sort of a motion for recusal, since the potential for influence would be higher than usual, given the pending trial before the Judge. The question of whether a Judge should recuse himself based upon the fact that one of the attorneys is a close friend of him or her cannot be answered on the limited facts you provide. I suppose if the two are very close acquaintances and there are hearings or trials coming up on the case, it may be something that could warrant recusal but, again, the friendship by itself would not mandate recusal. Each case has to be evaluated on its facts.
The response to this question is based upon the limited facts available. Decisions of consequence should only be made after consultation with a lawyer licensed in the state in which the matter is pending or likely to be pending if brought. Such decisions should only be made after the consulted lawyer has the opportunity to inquire of and ascertain all important facts and considerations. The question provides limited information and facts that are not known by me and/or not disclosed to me could have an impact upon the response I provide. It is also important to keep in mind that the response herein is being provided by an attorney licensed in New York State and the response provided is based upon this lawyer's knowledge from practicing primarily in New York State. If the matter is pending in another state, the laws of that state may be different and this must also be kept in mind before relying upon the response provided herein.
Most long time lawyers and long time judges are friends and see each other socially. It would be improper to discuss the case. Here are the rules in regards to Judges: https://www.nycourts.gov/rules/chiefadmin/100.shtml