September 14, 2000
Digest: A judge should not respond to a letter written by a governmental official in which the official requested the judge to state the reasons for an order made by the judge dismissing a certain proceeding.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.1.
A judge who dismissed a certain proceeding relating to a dog running at large has requested an opinion from this Committee as to the judge's obligation to respond, or not to respond, to a letter written by the Town Supervisor requesting a statement of the reasons for the dismissal. In the letter, the Town Supervisor asserts that no reason for the dismissal was given in the judge's decision or order, and asks the judge to state the reasons for the dismissal so that the Town Board might be better able to review the dog-at-large ordinance in question for possible deficiencies.
Section 100.1 of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct states that a judge has an obligation to preserve the independence of the judiciary. 22 NYCRR 100.1. The Committee believes that this independence would be undermined if judges were encouraged to respond to requests put forth by officers of other branches of government for explanations of particular orders or judgments. The Committee concludes that the judge should not respond to the request made in the letter in question. The judge may, out of courtesy, respond to the Town Supervisor with a letter stating that it would be regarded as ethically improper for the judge to comply with the request for an explanation of the reasons for the judge's decision.