February 11, 2008
A judge inquires whether judicial associations may extend honorary memberships to two justices of the Pakistan Supreme Court who were forcibly removed from the court and currently are under house arrest. The associations also will inform the New York Law Journal that they issued the honorary memberships.
In Opinion 96-127 (Vol. XV), this Committee advised that a judge could not sign a petition addressed to the President of the United States seeking a presidential pardon for a federal prisoner serving a life sentence for espionage. In the Committee’s view, such action would contravene section 100.2(C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, which precludes a judge from using the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of others. In addition, the Committee considered the subject matter inappropriately controversial for public announcement by a judge. Id.
There is no ethical impropriety in judicial associations extending honorary memberships to two justices of the Pakistan Supreme Court who were forcibly removed from the court and currently are under house arrest. A public announcement about doing so, however, is an improper use of the prestige of judicial office that would involve judges in a matter of controversy, potentially with political overtones, and with implications for American foreign policy. The associations, therefore, should abstain from any such public announcement.