September 14, 2004
Digest A full-time judge should not attend business meetings of a company in which the judge had served as vice-president and general counsel prior to becoming a judge, but may have dinner with former business associates.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4(D)(3).
A full-time judge inquires as to the propriety of attending meetings, approximately three or four per year, of a business entity in which the judge, prior to election had served as vice-president and general counsel. The judge advises that no official business decisions take place, no votes are taken and there is no remuneration for attendance. Those in attendance do discuss business issues facing the company. The meetings are followed by social dinners.
Section 100.4(D)(3) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct states that “A full-time judge shall not serve as an officer, director, manager, general partner, advisor, employee or other active participant of any business entity.” (emphasis added).
In light of the above, even though the judge receives no financial benefit, it is the opinion of the Committee that the judge should not participate in such meetings, since it could be claimed that the judge was acting as an advisor as to the company’s ongoing business activities, notwithstanding the fact that no official business is transacted.
The Committee sees no ethical problem in socializing, by way of having dinner, with former business associates subject to the prohibitions stated above.