September 7, 2006
Digest: A judge who has authored a work of fiction may mention his or her employment as a judge in the materials and activities undertaken in the promotion of the book, provided that this promotion does not exploit the judge’s judicial position.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.2(C); 100.3(B)(8); 100.4(B); Opinions 05-149; 99-145 (Vol. XVIII).
The inquiring full-time judge has written an illustrated work of fiction intended for children, which he/she is self-publishing through a company that is an affiliate of Amazon.com. A press release will be prepared, which normally includes biographical data. Moreover, the “author is expected to attend book signing gatherings and to participate in public discussions of the book.”
As noted by the judge, this Committee has previously concluded that it is ethically permissible for a judge to author a work of fiction and to publish it commercially, provided that the promotion of such work does not exploit the judge’s judicial position. 22 NYCRR 100.2(C); 100.4(B); Opinions 05-149; 99-145 (Vol. XVIII). Specifically, as provided in the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, a judge “shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others.” 22 NYCRR 100.2(C).
In our opinion, the proposed promotional activities do not contravene section 100.2(C) of the Rules. Accordingly, (1) the company may mention the judge’s position as a judge in its press release; (2) the book cover may state that the author currently serves as a judge of a particular court; (3) the judge may participate in traditional book-signing gatherings and public discussions of the book; and (4) at such functions, in response to any questions, the judge may state what his or her employment is, but may not comment on any pending or impending cases. 22 NYCRR 100.3(B)(8).
In short, a judge who is participating in a permissible extra-judicial activity is not required to hide his/her identity as a judge. Rather, he or she is merely required to refrain from using that identity to further his or her personal interests, or the interests of another. Disclosure of the facts of the judge’s status as a judge does not in this instance, and under the circumstances presented, constitute a misuse of judicial office, and thus there is no impropriety in engaging in the activities contemplated.