September 14, 2004
Digest: A part-time town justice may serve as the president of a local of a national labor union and on its civil rights committee, subject to certain limitations.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1); 100.5(A)(1)(c); 100.6(B)(4); Opinions 98-32; 97-33; 96-10; 90-126.
A part-time justice inquires as to whether the judge may serve as president of a local of a national labor union and on its civil rights committee.
Section 100.6(B)(4)(h) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provides that a part-time judge “may accept a private employment or public employment . . . provided that such employment is not incompatible with judicial office and does not conflict or interfere with the proper performance of the judge’s duties.”
While the foregoing does not appear to proscribe the judge from serving as president of the local, the judge needs to be aware of certain limitations which may, perhaps, render such service impractical. The same holds true for service on a civil rights committee.
These limitations involve essentially political involvement. For example, the judge may not participate in the union’s political action committee (PAC). 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(c); and, indeed, must insulate himself/herself from all political activity, e.g. endorsing candidates, engaging in partisan political activity, and participating in any way in the political campaigns of others. See, e.g. Opinions 98-32; 97-33; 90-126.
It is also the Committee’s opinion that since the Rules provide that a judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra-judicial activities in such a manner that they do not “cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially.” (22 NYCRR 100.4[A]), the judge should recuse in any court proceedings involving other members of the same local. Opinion 98-32.
As to service by the judge on the civil rights committee, that, too, is not proscribed by the Rules. The committee is to hear and “pursue meritorious civil rights complaints.” In that regard, the limitation referred to in 100.4(A)(1) (casting reasonable doubt on the judge’s impartiality) may come into play should the parties involved in such a dispute come before the judge in his/her judicial capacity.