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WORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE
CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT


Adopted by the Chairman of the Workers' Compensation Board August 19, 1997 (Revised October 20, 2006)

A Law Judge Should Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the Workers' Compensation Board and its Law Judges Bureau

An independent and honorable Law Judges Bureau is indispensable to the just adjudication of claims within New York State's workers' compensation system. A law judge should participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, and should observe, high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the Workers' Compensation Board and its Law Judges Bureau may be preserved. The provisions of this Code should be construed and applied to further that objective.

A Law Judge Should Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All His or Her Activities

A law judge shall not have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in any business or transaction or professional activity or incur any obligation of any nature, which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest.

A law judge's actions and affiliations must be above reproach, even if no actual conflict of interest is present. Any associations that give rise to the suspicion or perception of favoritism, self-dealing or personal private gain by law judges may erode the public's confidence.

  1. A law judge should endeavor to pursue a course of conduct which will not raise suspicion among the public that he or she is likely to be engaged in acts that are in violation of his or her trust.
  2. A law judge should not by his or her conduct give reasonable basis for the impression that any person can improperly influence the law judge or unduly enjoy his or her favor in the performance of the law judge's official duties, or that he or she is affected by the kinship, rank, position or influence of any party or person.

    Authority Cited:
    Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 95-21
    POL § 74 (3)(f), (3)(h)

A Law Judge Shall Perform the Duties of His or Her Office Impartially and Diligently

The adjudicatory duties of a law judge take precedence over all his or her other activities. Adjudicative duties include all the duties of his or her office prescribed by the Workers' Compensation Law and the Public Officers Law and rules pertinent thereto. In the performance of these duties, the following standards apply:

(A) Adjudicative and Administrative Responsibilities

  1. A law judge shall be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in it. A law judge shall be unswayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism.
  2. A law judge shall conduct hearings in an orderly manner.
  3. A law judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to claimants, witnesses, lawyers, licensed representatives and others with whom he or she deals in his or her official capacity, and should require similar conduct of lawyers, licensed representatives, Board officials, and others subject to his or her direction and control.
  4. A law judge shall perform adjudicative duties without bias or prejudice.
  5. A law judge shall dispose of adjudicative matters promptly, efficiently and fairly.
  6. A law judge shall not disclose confidential information acquired in the course of his or her official duties nor use such information to further his or her personal interests.
  7. A law judge shall not use or attempt to use his or her official position to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for himself or herself or others.
  8. A law judge shall diligently discharge his or her administrative responsibilities without bias or prejudice and shall maintain professional competence in judicial administration, and shall cooperate with other law judges, the Supervising and Senior Law Judges, and Board officials in the administration of Board business.
  9. A law judge shall file a registration statement with the Office of Court Administration biennially in accordance with Section 468-a of the Judiciary Law and the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts. No fee shall be required from an attorney who certifies that he or she has retired from the practice of law. For the purposes of Section 468-a of the Judiciary Law a full-time law judge who does not engage in the private practice of law for compensation shall be deemed retired from the practice of law.

    Authority Cited:
    Code of Judicial Conduct
    POL § 74 (3)(c), (3)(d)
    12 NYCRR § 300.9
    22 NYCRR § 100.3 (B)(4), (B)(7), (C)(1)
    22 NYCRR § 118.1(g)
    Judiciary Law § 468-a

(B) Disqualification

  1. A law judge shall recuse himself or herself on any ground a judge may be disqualified pursuant to section fourteen of the Judiciary Law, as described herein:
    1. a law judge shall not sit as such in, or take any part in the decision of, any claim, matter, motion or proceeding to which he or she is a party;
    2. or in which he or she has been attorney or counsel;
    3. or in which he or she is interested;
    4. or if he or she is related by consanguinity or affinity to any party to the controversy within the sixth degree. The degree shall be ascertained by ascending from the law judge to the common ancestor, descending to the party, counting a degree for each person in both lines, including the law judge and party, and excluding the common ancestor (i.e., the sixth degree of consanguinity shall include the children of a law judge's second cousin).
    5. No law judge shall be disqualified in any claim, matter, motion or proceeding in which an insurance company is a party or is interested by reason of his or her being a policyholder therein.
  2. A law judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the law judge has a personal bias or prejudice or familiar relationship concerning a party or witness, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding.
  3. A law judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding that the law judge, individually or as a fiduciary, or his or her spouse or minor child residing in the law judge's household, has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.
  4. A law judge shall keep informed about his or her personal, fiduciary and beneficial economic interests, and make a reasonable effort to keep informed about the personal economic interests of the judge's spouse and minor children residing in the law judge's household.

    Authority Cited:
    Code of Judicial Conduct
    Judiciary Law § 14
    WCL § 20(3)

A Judge Shall Regulate His or Her Quasi-Judicial and Extra Judicial Activities to Minimize the Risk of Conflict with Judicial Duties

A law judge shall conduct all of his or her quasi-judicial and extra-judicial activities so that they do not cast reasonable doubt on the law judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge, demean the Board's judicial office, or interfere with the proper performance of his or her judicial duties.

(A) Avocational Activities

  1. A law judge shall not hold any other public office or public employment for which compensation is received, other than necessary travel or other expenses incurred in the duties of such office or employment.
  2. A law judge may engage in any private employment or in a profession or business. Such law judge may receive the ordinary compensation if the engagement in any employment or in a profession or business does not conflict with the proper performance of the duties of his or her office and is not inconsistent with the Public Officers Law. If a law judge engages in the private practice of law for compensation, he or she can not certify on the biennial registration form filed with the Office of Court Administration that he or she is retired from the practice of law.
  3. A law judge must obtain prior written approval from the Board Ethics Officer and the Chair before engaging in any outside employment, profession or business where the annual compensation will be between $1,000 and $4,000 and the approval of Board Ethics Officer, the Chair and the State Ethics Commission before engaging in any private employment or in a profession or business where annual compensation will be more than $4,000.
  4. A law judge shall not accept any position which will impair the law judge's independence of judgment in the exercise of his or her official duties.
  5. A law judge shall not accept any position which will require the law judge to disclose confidential information which he or she has gained by reason of the law judge's official position or authority.
  6. A law judge may not directly or indirectly engage in any activity related to, or have any affiliation with, an insurance company which is authorized to write coverage under the Workers' Compensation Law, Disability Benefits Law, Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law or Workers' Compensation Act for Civil Defense Volunteers; or an insurance company authorized to pay health service charges under the Comprehensive Automobile Insurance Act.
  7. A law judge shall not serve as a director or officer of a for-profit corporation or institution without, in each case, obtaining prior approval from the State Ethics Commission.
  8. Nothing in this provision shall prohibit a law judge from participating in the organized militia or reserve components of the armed forces of the United States and receiving pay and allowances for such duty.

    Authority Cited:
    WCL § 150
    POL § 74(3)(a), (b)
    19 NYCRR § 932.3(b), (c), (e)
    WCB Subject Nos. 700-3 and 700-4
    Military Law §§ 210, 242

(B) Civic and Charitable Activities

A law judge may not provide services outside of his or her official Board duties in any way related to the laws administered by the Chair or the Board, to any employer group, or any employee group or union, or any attorney, physician or hospital, or any other parties who have business with the Board. This shall in no way preclude a law judge from participating in or serving as a representative of an employee organization or union.

Authority Cited:
Subject No. 700-3

(C) Financial Activities

  1. A law judge may not accept any gift, including money, service, loan, travel, entertainment, hospitality, thing or promise, from anyone who has direct or indirect interest in any matter arising under the laws administered by the Chair or the Board, or from anyone acting on his or her behalf, under circumstances in which it could reasonably be inferred that the gift was intended to influence, or could reasonably be expected to influence, the law judge in the performance of his or her official duties or was intended as a reward for any official action on his or her part. Except that a law judge may accept the following:
    1. a gift from a relative, in the form of a travel payment;
    2. a payment, fee, travel payment or other compensation from the law judge's union for providing services for or acting on behalf of the union;
    3. a payment or travel payment made to the State of New York by a non-governmental source as remuneration or honorarium for services rendered by a law judge on official duty.
  2. A law judge may not engage in any transaction as a representative or agent of the state with any business entity in which the law judge has a direct or indirect financial interest that might reasonably tend to conflict with the proper discharge of his or her official duties.
  3. A law judge should abstain from making personal investments in enterprises which he or she has reason to believe may be directly involved in decisions to be made by the law judge or which will otherwise create substantial conflict between duties in the public interest and his or her private interest.
  4. No law judge, nor any firm or association of which a law judge is a member, nor corporation a substantial portion of the stock of which is owned or controlled directly or indirectly by a law judge, shall sell goods or services to any person, firm, corporation or association which is licensed or whose rates are fixed by the Workers' Compensation Board.
  5. Nothing contained in this provision shall prohibit a law judge from conducting internal research or from discussing a matter.
  6. Nothing contained in this provision shall prohibit a law judge from appearing before a state agency in a representative capacity on behalf of an employee organization in any matter where such appearance is duly authorized by an employee organization.
  7. A law judge who is a member, associate, retired member, of counsel to, or shareholder of any firm, association or corporation which is appearing or rendering services in connection with any case, proceeding, application or other matter, shall not orally communicate, with or without compensation, as to the merits of such case with an officer or an employee of the agency concerned with the matter.

    Authority Cited:
    POL § 73 (7)(a), (7)(e), (7)(g), (12)
    POL § 74 (3)(g), (3)(i), (3)(j)
    19 NYCRR § 930.2(c)(3)
    WCB Subject No. 700-3

Financial Disclosure for Honorariums and other Payments Received in Connection with Judicial, Quasi-Judicial and Extra-Judicial Activities

  1. A law judge shall file an annual statement of financial disclosure containing the information and in the form set forth in subdivision three of section 73-a of the Public Officers Law.
  2. A law judge must comply with all rules and regulations pertaining to honorariums and travel reimbursements as set forth in Title 19 NYCRR Part 930 and Workers' Compensation Board Subject No. 700-1. A law judge shall obtain approval for or report to the Chair or Executive Director in accordance with the guidelines in Subject No. 700-1 whenever a law judge receives a payment, fee or other compensation. This includes payments made to the individual directly or to the provider of lodging and/or transportation; and payments made as a gratuity, award or honorarium, whether or not these services were performed in connection with the law judge's official duties. This does not include pay and allowances received for militia or reserve duty.
  3. A law judge may accept the following, which are not considered to be honorarium:
    1. a travel payment in the form of a gift from a relative;
    2. payment in lieu of an honorarium made to the State or a travel payment provided by nongovernmental sources for activities related to a covered individual's official duties;
    3. compensation in the nature of salary, wages or fees for services for non-State related work performed or travel payment provided by nongovernmental sources for activities related to a law judge's engagement in any private employment or in a profession or business;
    4. a payment, fee, travel payment or other compensation provided to a law judge who provides services for or acts on behalf of an employee organization certified or recognized under article 14 of the Civil Service Law to represent such covered individual;
    5. pay and allowances as prescribed in the Military Law § 210 for militia or reserve duty.
  4. A law judge shall not accept an honorarium or travel reimbursement from an individual or an organization (or its officers or board of directors) that:
    1. is regulated by, regularly negotiates with, appears before the Workers' Compensation Board for anything other than a strict administrative purpose, does business with or has a contract with the Board or the law judge in his or her official capacity;
    2. attempts to lobby or to influence the Board's or the law judge's action or position on legislation, rules, regulations or rate making;
    3. is involved with pending legal action against the Board or the law judge in his or her official capacity;
    4. has received or applied for funds from the Board within the one year period immediately prior to and including the date the honorarium was to be received.
  5. A law judge must report any honorarium or travel reimbursement from every source totaling more than $1,000, regardless of whether approval for its receipt is or is not required under Public Officers Law § 73-a and Subject No. 700-1.

    Authority Cited:
    POL § 73-a
    Military Law § 210
    19 NYCRR § 930.2(c)(3)
    WCB Subject Nos. 700-1 and 700-3

Restrictions on Law Judges from Engaging in Inappropriate Political Activity

  1. No law judge shall engage in any outside activity which interferes or is in conflict with the proper and effective discharge of such individual's official duties or responsibilities.
  2. No law judge shall serve as an officer of any political party or political organization.
  3. No law judge shall serve as a member of any political party committee including political party district leader (however designated) or member of the national committee of a political party.

    Authority Cited:
    19 NYCRR § 932.2(a), (b)
    19 NYCRR § 932.3(a)

Compliance with the Code of Judicial Conduct

  1. Anyone, whether or not a lawyer, who is an officer or employee of the Workers' Compensation Board performing duties as a law judge, whether temporary or permanent, full or part-time, or acting referees pursuant to Workers' Compensation Law § 150(c), shall comply with this Code.
  2. The General Counsel to the Workers' Compensation Board shall serve as a Board Ethics Officer who shall:
    1. assist law judges who have specific questions concerning application of this Code of Judicial Conduct;
    2. determine whether law judges are in compliance with this Code, on a case by case basis;
    3. assess the effectiveness of this Code and recommend changes to the Chair;
    4. take appropriate steps in cases of possible violation of the Workers' Compensation Law, the Public Officers Law, or this Code; and
    5. assume other related responsibilities the Chair may wish to assign.
  3. The terms used in this Code shall be construed in accordance with similar provisions set forth in the Code of Judicial Conduct adopted by the New York State Bar Association and Title 22 NYCRR Part 100. To the extent that any provision of this Code is inconsistent with any rule, opinion or subject number applicable to the conduct of law judges heretofore issued by the New York State Ethics Commission or the Workers' Compensation Board, the rules of such Commission or Board shall prevail.

    Authority Cited:
    WCL § 150
    WCB Subject Nos. 700-3 and 700-4