January 23, 2003
Digest: A part-time lawyer-judge may become a member of The Federalist Society and its Lawyers Division.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q); 100.4(C)(3); Opinion 98-149
The inquiring part-time city court judge asks whether it is permissible to join The Federalist Society, a self-described “group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order.” In particular, its Lawyers Division was founded “as a means of bringing together attorneys, business leaders, judges and other individuals interested in examining and improving the state of the law.”
In our opinion there is nothing ethically impermissible in a lawyer/judge becoming a member of The Federalist Society and its Lawyers Division. Section 100.4(C)(3) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct explicitly allows a judge to be “a member of an organization . . . devoted to improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. . .” 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3).
The organization meets those criteria; and the fact that it may have a particular point of view with respect to what might constitute such improvement of the law, etc., is irrelevant. See e.g., Opinion 98-149, Vol. XVII [a judge may accept membership in the American Trial Lawyers Association]. Accordingly, the judge may become a member of The Federalist Society and its Lawyers Division.