April 18, 2002
Digest: A plaque honoring a volunteer fire policeman who was killed by a drunk driver while directing traffic for the local fire department should not be prominently displayed in the courtroom, which also serves as a town meeting room when the court is in session.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(A).
A plaque honoring a volunteer fire policeman who was killed by a drunk driver while directing traffic for the local fire department is prominently displayed in a town meeting room. The same room serves as the town’s courtroom. Recently, an attorney appearing in the courtroom asked one of the judges whether the town fire department is happy with the sentence imposed against the guilty driver. The town justices have asked whether displaying the plaque during court violates the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.
Judges must “. . . act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” 22 NYCRR 100.2(A). While the town’s desire to honor a volunteer Fire Policeman who was killed under such tragic circumstances is understandable, and recognizing that many small communities have limited public space that must be used for a variety of purposes, it is the Committee’s view that the plaque should not be prominently displayed in the courtroom while court is in session. To do otherwise may cause litigants to question the judges’ impartiality in a variety of different kinds of cases.