March 8, 2001
Digest: A local court which has created an Internet web site for the court should not provide a link on the web site to facilitate transfer to another web site maintained by a Megan's Law advocacy group which lists, among other things, registered offenders by name and county of residence.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2(A); Corrections Law 168-a(4); Opinions 96-150
(Vol. XV); 94-64 (Vol. XII); 96-132 (Vol. XV).
An Internet web site for a Town Court has incorporated a link from the court site which facilitates transfer to another web site maintained by a Megan's Law advocacy group. The Megan's Law site lists, among other things, registered sex offenders by name and county of residence. A justice of the Town Court seeks a determination if it is ethically permissible to continue to maintain that link.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct require that judges maintain the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2(A). The enforcement of Megan's Law and the dissemination of authorized information regarding Megan's Law sex offenders is a function of "law enforcement" agencies as that term is defined in the governing statute. That definition does not include the courts. Correction Law 168-a(4). It is, in our view, inappropriate for a court to be associated, through a link in the court web page, with an advocacy group which, in effect, is pursuing a law enforcement function. This service, when provided by the court, would tend to derogate from the independence of the judiciary and could impair public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the court. See e.g. Opinions 96-150 (Vol. XV); 94-64 (Vol. XII); 96-132 (Vol. XV). In our opinion, the court should not provide a link to the Megan's Law advocacy group through its web site.