September 14, 2000
A Family Court judge should not accept an award from a county domestic
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.