January 23, 2003
Digest: A part-time judge may serve on a Attorney Grievance Committee, but should not serve on a Catholic Bishop’s Community Review Board that recommends what measures, if any, should be taken against priests who are the subject of child abuse allegations.
Rules: Opinions 92-123 (Vol. X); 95-49 (Vol. XIII); 96-76 (Vol. XIV).
A part-time judge who is permitted to practice law inquires whether it would be proper to serve on either or both of two separate boards that the judge has been asked to join.
First, the judge has been asked to serve on the Attorney Grievance Committee for the judicial district in which the judge serves. The Committee recommends what, if any, disciplinary measures should be instituted against local attorneys. The position is uncompensated.
This Committee has previously determined that a part-time judge may serve on the New York State Bar Association Grievance Committee, stating, that it “sees no ethical objection to such service. It should be noted that judges serve in related matters throughout the State, e.g., Appellate Division justices passing on the disciplining of attorneys.” Opinion 95-49 (Vol. XIII).
The fact that the Grievance Committee in the instant application is associated with a Unified Court System Judicial District rather than a bar association is not a distinction meriting deviation from our previous holding.
Second, the judge has been asked to serve on a Catholic Bishop’s Community Review Board. The review board recommends to the bishop what measures, if any, should be taken against priests against whom child abuse allegations are made. This Committee has previously determined that it would be impermissible for a full-time judge to serve as a hearing officer in a church-related disciplinary hearing or to serve on an ecclesiastical court. Opinions 92-123 (Vol. X); 96-76 (Vol. XIV).
The fact that the judge in this instance, is a part-time and not a full-time judge, does not in our view, require a different result. The judge’s participation could, in our opinion, be perceived as lending the prestige of judicial office to the findings and recommendations of the Review Board concerning a particular priest. This would violate section 100.2(C) of the Rule Governing Judicial Conduct. 22 NYCRR 100.2(C). The judge should not be cast in such a role, especially in light of the possibility of civil or criminal litigation involving a priest who had been the subject of the Board’s deliberations. Our advice, therefore, is that the judge not serve on this particular church board.