September 12, 2002
Digest: A judge may serve as the moderator for a cable television show that would publicize the availability of the lawyer referral service offered by a bar association.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.3(B)(8); 100.4(A); 100.4(B),(C)(3); Opinions 88-106 (Vol. II); 89-146(Vol. IV); 95-94 (Vol. XIII); 96-44 (Vol. XIV); 98-141 (Vol. XVII); 98-156 (Vol. XVII).
A judge who is a member of the Legal Referral Service committee of a bar association asks whether it is ethically permissible to serve as the moderator for a cable television show that would publicize the availability of the association’s lawyer referral service. The judge indicates that each show would address a particular area of the law that is of interest to the general public, and that during each show, lawyers who participate in the referral service would provide information and answer questions about their areas of legal expertise. The judge will not be compensated for his/her services.
Pursuant to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, a judge may participate in extra-judicial activities that (1) do not cast doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially; (2) do not detract from the dignity of judicial office; or, (3) do not interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not incompatible with judicial office. 22 NYCRR 100.4(A). In particular, a judge may write, lecture, teach and participate in the activities of organizations devoted to the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. 22 NYCRR 100.4(B),(C)(3).
The Committee has previously concluded that a judge may appear on a television talk show to discuss legal matters [Opinion 88-106 (Vol. II)]; host a regularly scheduled television show about the law, including court procedures [Opinion 89-146(Vol. IV); and, host a talk show on a local non-commercial public access station during which various topics are the subject of discussion [Opinion 95-94 (Vol. XIII)]. Similarly, the Committee is of the opinion that the judge in the present inquiry may serve as the moderator for a cable television show that would publicize the availability of the lawyer referral service offered by a bar association. The judge may not, however, comment on any pending or impending cases. 22 NYCRR 100.3(B)(8).