Opinion: 00-06

March 9, 2000

Digest: A part-time judge should not teach a defensive driving course if the justice is empowered to refer defendants to that course, or similar ones.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(B);
           Opinions 97-47 (Vol. XV);
           96-37 (Vol. XIV).


            A part-time village and town justice inquires whether the justice's teaching of an "AARP 55/Alive Driving Course" would violate ethical restrictions.

            In Opinion 96-37 (Vol. XIV), the Committee stated that a part-time justice who is empowered to refer defendants to a defensive driving course should not participate in such a course as an instructor. The Committee stated that this would create an appearance of impropriety. 22 NYCRR 100.2. In Opinion 97-47 (Vol. XV), the Committee stated that such an appearance of impropriety would still be created where a judge has the power to refer defendants to an "insurance and point reduction program" even where the program is in a county other than the judge's county.

            In the absence of any information indicating otherwise, the Committee will presume (1) that the "AARP 55/Alive Driving Course" is a "defensive driving" course similar to those considered in Opinions 96-37 and 97-47 (supra), and (2) that the inquiring justice has the power to refer defendants to this, or to some similar course. Under these circumstances, the Committee believes, in accordance with our prior opinions, that the justice should not teach the course.

            The basis for that conclusion is the belief that a refusal to refer a defendant to the judge's program as well as a referral to the program could both engender the perception that the judge's judicial conduct or judgment is being influenced by the judge's status as an instructor for a particular program. 22 NYCRR 100.2(B).