December 6, 2007
Digest: A judge who is certified by the National Rifle Association as a pistol instructor may continue to teach a pistol safety course, but must avoid discussing any pending or impending cases and must not convey a predisposition to decide cases in a particular way.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(A); 100.3(B)(8); 100.4(A)(1) - (3); 100.4(B); Opinions 06-15; 03-54.
A newly elected part-time judge, certified by the National Rifle Association as a pistol instructor, wishes to continue teaching a pistol safety course. The County Sheriff requires all applicants for a pistol permit to complete such a course. The judge does not make any recommendation to the Sheriff about granting or denying a pistol permit, but only certifies that an applicant passed or failed the course. Police officers do not attend the course.
A judge may engage in extra-judicial activities so long as they do not: “(1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge; (2) detract from the dignity of judicial office; or (3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not incompatible with judicial office” (22 NYCRR 100.4[A] - ). Specifically, “[a] judge may speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in extra-judicial activities subject to the requirements of [the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct]” (22 NYCRR 100.4[B]).
Therefore, the inquiring judge may teach a pistol safety course, subject to the limitations mentioned above and with the following caveats: the judge may not discuss any pending or impending cases and must avoid any perception of partiality or of a predisposition to decide matters in a particular way (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]; 100.3[B]; Opinions 06-15; 03-54).