March 9, 2006
Digest: A part-time village justice who practices law may not erect a sign on the facade of the judge’s law office advertising that he/she is a “Justice of the Peace,” authorized to solemnize marriages.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(C); Opinions 05-18; 03-34.
A part-time village justice who is permitted to practice law asks whether it is ethically proper to erect a sign in front of his/her law office, which is situated on the village’s main street. The sign would advertise that the attorney is a “Justice of the Peace” (or other variation of that title) and thus authorized to solemnize marriages.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibit a judge from utilizing a judicial title to further the judge’s private interests. 22 NYCRR 100.2(C). Thus, this Committee has previously determined that it is improper for a part-time judge/lawyer to utilize the judge’s judicial status in promotional advertisements directed to the general public, for the purpose of soliciting additional legal business. Opinions 05-18; 03-34. In our view, this advertisement on a law firm’s building facade is promotional and intended to solicit legal business. The use of the judicial title and the judge’s authority to solemnize marriages is merely an indirect method of achieving the same result. The Committee therefore concludes that the use of the sign would be an improper use of the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the law firm or of the judge, and thus is not permissible. 22 NYCRR 100.2(C).