The Third Department determined the Family Court judge in this custody proceeding should have recused himself because, as an attorney, he had represented the mother years before where custody was adjudicated. The judge did not remember representing mother, but disqualification was required by the applicable statute:
“A judge shall not sit as such in, or take any part in the decision of, an action, claim, matter, motion or proceeding . . . in which he [or she] has been attorney or counsel” (Judiciary Law § 14; see Rules Governing Judicial Conduct [22 NYCRR] § 100.3 [E]  [b] [i]). “This prohibition is absolute and establishes a bright-line disqualification rule” … . Although neither the Judiciary Law nor the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct define “an action, claim, matter, motion or proceeding” (Judiciary Law § 14), Black’s Law Dictionary defines a “claim” as “[t]he assertion of an existing right . . . to an equitable remedy, even if contingent or provisional” … .
… [O]ur jurisprudence recognizes that, except in limited circumstances, a parent has an existing and ongoing right to custody of and/or visitation with his or her children … , and it is undisputed that the November 2012 default order and the order on appeal both deal with the custodial arrangement between the same two parents regarding the same three children. Under these circumstances, where the two proceedings involve the same claim of custody, guardianship, or visitation for the same children, we find that Family Court was statutorily disqualified from the instant proceedings … . Matter of John II. v Kristen JJ., 2022 NY Slip Op 05132, Third Dept 9-8-22
Practice Point: It is a bright-line statutory rule that a judge who, as an attorney, represented mother in a custody proceeding is statutorily disqualified from presiding over the same parties in a subsequent custody proceeding.