April 27, 2006
Digest: Under the circumstances presented, including the fact that the county public defender’s office has also been invited to attend and participate, a judge may attend an “information sharing” and “networking” criminal justice breakfast sponsored by local law-enforcement agencies.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2(A); 100.3(B)(8); Opinions 04-91; 98-87 (Vol. XVII); 94-31 (Vol. XII); 87-28(a) (Vol. I).
A part-time judge has been invited to attend an “information sharing” and “networking” criminal justice breakfast sponsored by the county Criminal Justice Advisory Council, the District Attorney’s Office, the Probation Department and the Stop-DWI coordinator. The judge specifically represents that the Public Defender’s Office has also been invited to participate.
This Committee has previously determined that it would be improper for judges to attend training programs designed to “maximize enforcement” or enhance conviction rates or which are sponsored by law enforcement agencies solely for the benefit of law enforcement officials. Opinions 94-31(Vol. XII); 87-28(a) (Vol. I). A judge’s attendance or participation in such a program would create an appearance of impropriety, an appearance of a lack of impartiality and reflect adversely on the judge’s independence. 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2(A); Opinion 04-91.
Although this seminar is sponsored by law enforcement and related agencies, the fact that the Public Defender’s Office and members of the defense bar are invited to attend would evidence that the program content is not intended to promote a law enforcement perspective, but rather to share information concerning the criminal justice system as a whole.
Thus, the inquiring judge may participate in the program as described, subject to the proviso that the judge say nothing which could reasonably be interpreted as reflecting a predisposition of any kind with respect to cases likely to come before the court. Opinion 98-87 (Vol. XVII). Further, the judge may not comment on any proceedings pending or impending in any court in the United States or its territories. 22 NYCRR 100.3(B)(8).