December 7, 2006
Digest: A part-time judge may not serve as counsel to the Minority Conference of a county legislature.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1); 100.6(B)(4); Opinions 99-74 (Vol. XVIII); 97-86 (Vol. XVI); 94-10 (Vol. XII).
A part-time lawyer-judge asks whether he/she may serve as counsel to the minority conference of a county legislature. This position would require the inquirer to provide legal advice to conference members on matters pending before the legislative body, draft press releases, position papers and proposed legislation, and to interact “on behalf of the Minority Conference with a wide array of public and private officials, agencies and their staffs.”
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provide that a part-time judge may accept public employment in federal, state or municipal departments or agencies so long as such employment does not conflict or interfere with the proper performance of the judge’s duties. 22 NYCRR 100.6(B)(4). However, this Committee has determined that positions which would invariably immerse a judge in partisan political activity are incompatible with judicial office, and therefore barred. Thus, part-time judges may not be counsel to a state senator or be a community liaison representative for a state assembly member because such service would inevitably involve the judge in impermissible, partisan political activity. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1); Opinions 97-86 (Vol. XVI); 94-10 (Vol. XII).
The Committee believes that a counsel to a minority conference of a legislature would frequently and unavoidably be drawn into discussions of controversial, partisan political matters. Opinion 99-74 (Vol. XVIII).
Therefore, a part-time judge may not serve as counsel to the minority conference of a county legislature.