June 12, 2003
Digest: A judge should not serve on an advisory committee to a law school women’s justice center where the committee’s primary role is to address domestic violence issues exclusively from the standpoint of the victim.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2(A); 100.4(A)(1); Opinions 88-150 (Vol. III); 99-31; 99-46; Joint Opinion 00-54/56
A part-time judge asks about the propriety of serving on an advisory committee to a law school women’s justice center. The center is an educational arm of the law school and oversees externships and guided research projects for law students and internships and community service opportunities for high school students. However, the specific advisory committee about which this judge inquires, primarily, if not solely, deals with issues involving female victims of domestic violence.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct require that a judge uphold and preserve the independence of the judiciary, act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and conduct all of the judge’s extra-judicial activities in a manner that those activities do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge. 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2; 100.4(A)(1). Although the goals of this advisory committee may be well-meaning and even exemplary, the fact that the committee addresses domestic violence issues exclusively from the perspective of the female victim might reflect adversely upon the impartiality of the judge in question. Opinions 88-150 (Vol. III); 99-31; 99-46; Joint Opinion 00-54/56. It is not necessarily an actual lack of impartiality that is determinative of the propriety of the situation in question, but rather the possible appearance of partiality that, by itself, is the basis of our view that the judge should not serve. Opinion 88-150 (Vol. III).