January 24, 2002
Digest: Under the circumstances presented, the inquiring judge should not serve as a volunteer Fire Investigator for the county.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2(A); 100.4(A)(1), (4)
A part-time town justice inquires if it is permissible to serve as a volunteer Fire Investigator for the county. Although the position is not that of a peace or police officer, county Fire Investigators do report their findings to the detective division of the county Sheriff’s Department in any case of a suspicious fire and are required to testify in the grand jury should it be necessary.
The Committee believes that in light of the close relationship with the Sheriff’s Department, it is inadvisable for the inquirer to serve in the capacity of Fire Investigator. Considerations of public perception of judicial independence and impartiality should be paramount, and any extra-judicial activity that might erode that perception should be avoided. The two positions appear to us to be incompatible, given the duties and relationships involved, 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2(A); 100.4(A)(1), (3).