April 27, 2006
Digest: A judge may attend and participate as a panelist at a meeting that is sponsored by a non-profit group and that is open to the public, about changes to a state statute involving the termination of parental rights when a child has been placed in foster care, but the judge may not comment on any matter pending or impending in any court, nor should the judge express any views that manifest a predisposition in deciding issues or cases.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.2(A); 100.3(B)(8).
A judge asks whether it is permissible to participate as a panelist at a meeting open to the public and sponsored by a non-profit group. The subjects to be discussed deal with proposed changes to a state statute involving the termination of parental rights when a child has been placed in foster care. The judge would be on the dais and would discuss possible constitutional and other legal issues.
Section 100.4(B) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provides that judges may speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other extra-judicial activities. This would include, of course, subjects dealing with the law, the legal system and the administration of justice. There are, however, certain limitations. Section 100.3(B)(8) of the Rules, for example, prohibits a judge from making “any public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court within the United States or its territories.” Further, a judge must avoid engaging in conduct that
might cast doubt on the judge’s impartiality. 22 NYCRR 100.2(A).
Accordingly, while participation at the meeting is permissible, care must be taken to avoid commenting on any pending or impending cases, and the judge should not express any views that manifest a predisposition in deciding issues or cases.