Opinion 09-99

June 3 - 4, 2009


Digest:         A part-time judge may serve on a county community services board for the county where he/she presides.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.4(A)(1)-(3); 100.4(C)(2)(a); Opinions 07-81; 07-19.


         A part-time judge asks whether he/she may serve on the county Community Services Board for the county where he/she presides. The judge advises that the Board is a “planning agency for the overall provision of mental health related services in the county, alcohol and substance abuse services, and other health related services” as set forth in the Mental Hygiene Law. The judge further advises that the Board “does not provide any services to which any defendant before a town or village justice could be referred or ordered to partake.”

         A judge must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all the judge’s activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). A judge may engage in certain extra-judicial activities as long as doing so does 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 (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A][1]-[3]). While a full-time judge may only serve on a governmental committee or commission or in another governmental position if it concerns the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, part-time judges are not subject to the same limitation (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][2][a]). However, no judge should participate as a board member of an organization if the judge may refer persons who appear in the judge’s court to that organization for services (see Opinion 07-19).

         Thus, the Committee previously has advised that a county court judge may serve on the board of directors of a not-for-profit charity that provides services to orphans, foster children and disabled adults, provided, inter alia, that the activities would not otherwise conflict with judicial duties, that the judge would not make referrals to the organization, and that the organization would not appear in the judge’s court (see Opinion 07-81; cf. Opinion 07-19 [judge should not promote program for at-risk youth where judge’s court empowered to refer parties to the program]).

         Similarly, the judge in the present inquiry may serve on the county Community Services Board as long as he/she cannot refer persons who appear in his/her court to the Community Services Board for services.