Opinion: 00-92

September 14, 2000

Digest:  A Family Court judge should not accept an award from a county domestic violence program.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1),(3).


            A Family Court judge inquires whether the judge may accept an annual award from a county domestic violence program; attend a public ceremony at which the award would be presented; and make brief acceptance remarks during the ceremony.

            It is the Committee's view that accepting an annual award from a county domestic violence program and participating in a public ceremony at which the award will be presented is ethically impermissible. A judge may, of course, engage in a variety of extra-judicial activities, so long as the activities do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially. 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1),(3). Here, the county domestic violence program provides advocacy, assistance and support services on behalf of domestic violence victims, including assistance to individuals in completing petitions to be filed in the Family Court, and attending Family Court proceedings with domestic violence victims for the purpose of providing emotional support and counseling. Because the program's activities are focused on supporting the petitioner (and the petitioner only) in the context of adversarial proceedings that come before the Family Court judge, accepting the award may reflect adversely on the judge's impartiality. We therefore advise that the judge not accept the award.