October 23, 2003
Digest: A judge should not permit a private for- profit mediation service to place promotional brochures in the courthouse and should not suggest the use of its services to parties appearing before the judge.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.2(C)(1); Opinions 97-16 (Vol.XV ); 98-98 (Vol.XVII); 99-151 (Vol.XVIII ).
The inquiring judge has been contacted by a for-profit private enterprise which provides mediation services for a fee. The inquiring judge seeks the Committee’s opinion on whether the private enterprise’s brochures may be placed at the clerk’s window or elsewhere in the courthouse and whether this service may be suggested by the Court, provided that the Court does not make an official recommendation. As indicated below, the Committee concludes that the court should not engage in the stated conduct.
Section 100.2(C)(1) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct requires that “A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge of others.” 22 NYCRR 100.2(C)(1). On previous occasions, raising analogous situations – that is where a judge was endorsing, or appeared to be endorsing, even tacitly the service of an organization - this Committee concluded that such conduct would be impermissible . See, e.g. Opinions 97-16 (Vol.XV ); 98-98 (Vol.XVII); 99-151 (Vol.XVIII). Here, allowing the organization to publicize its services in the courthouse, or supporting its employment by parties, falls into the category of promoting the enterprise and is conduct that should be avoided.