March 9, 2000
A judge should not respond to newspaper criticism involving the imposition
of fines in particular cases but may publicize for public information the
city ordinance pursuant to which certain classes of fines were raised.
22 NYCRR 100.3(B)(8);
Opinion 92-114 (Vol. X).
A City Court judge inquires about the propriety of publicly responding to criticism of the judge which appeared in newspaper editorials, letters to the editor and a cartoon. The issue in controversy involves the increase in fines to be paid to the municipality's Traffic Violations Bureau. Under a city ordinance the City Court has the authority to designate the fines that are to be paid to the Bureau.
A similar matter was previously addressed by this Committee in Opinion
92-114 (Vol. X), involving a controversy over the criteria for obtaining
a gun license. In that situation the Committee counseled against any public
statements by the judge about his or her criteria or actions in a particular
instance, but did advise that the judge could inform the public as to any
published rule or authority governing the situation. Section 100.3(B)(8)
of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct specifically states that a judge
is not prohibited "from explaining for public information the procedures
of the court." 22 NYCRR 100.3(B)(8). Accordingly, in the present situation,
the judge can, if feasible, make public the ordinance pursuant to which
various categories of fines were raised.