December 2, 2004
Digest: A judge may participate as a member of a panel to select an administrator of a “conflict defender’s office”.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4( C)(3);Opinion 98-162 (Vol XVII).
A Family Court judge has been asked by a county bar association to be part of a selection panel which will review and recommend three persons for potential appointment to the position of administrator of the “conflict defender’s office”. The county executive will then select the person and make the appointment. The conflict office is involved where conflicts exist with the local public defender’s office in Family, Criminal and Supreme Court matters, and administers selection and assignment of private counsel in such cases.
The judge inquires as to the propriety of serving on the panel to recommend the administrator. Section 100.4 (C)(3) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct states that “A judge may be a member or serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an organization . . . devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice . . .” 22 NYCRR 100.3 ( C)(3). In applying that provision, this Committee has held that a judge may serve on the Board of Directors of an assigned counsel program. Opinion 98-162 (Vol. XVII). It is assumed that as a member of such a board a judge would be involved in the selection process for the program’s administrator, as is at issue herein.
Moreover, although the ultimate appointment to the position would be made by the county executive, a perception that the judge is therefore involved in a political process is not warranted. Nothing set forth by the judge in his/her submission would support such a conclusion.