October 7, 2011
Please note that Opinion 05-134, which is cited herein as a "cf.", has been overruled (see Opinion 12-44 [advising that a judge may not preside at and offer a critique of a mock trial to be held during a trial skills training program for prosecutors]). The Committee notes that the advice contained in present Opinion is not affected by Opinion 12-44 and thus remains in effect.
This responds to your inquiry (10-166) asking whether you may, with the assistance of the Center for Court Innovation, organize and co-sponsor with an Appellate Division Office of Attorneys for Children, a Continuing Legal Education program addressing various issues relating to family violence for lawyers and members of the courthouse staff. You advise that the program will be open to anyone who wishes to attend and that there is no fee for attending.
In Opinion 09-127, the Committee advised that judges should not participate in seminars or other extrajudicial events if they are so one-sided as to create an appearance that the judge's neutrality may be compromised (see Opinion 04-34 [although judge may otherwise participate in summit on elder abuse, judge may not participate in law enforcement or prosecution oriented presentations]; Joint Opinion 00-54/00-56 [Vol. XIX] [judge may not participate with law enforcement agencies in a project to develop protocols relating to victims of domestic violence, where the project excludes legal representatives of defendants and is intended to aid in the prosecution of such matters]; cf. Opinions 06-73 [judge may participate in a networking criminal justice breakfast, even though it is sponsored by local law enforcement agencies, where the public defender's office and the defense bar are invited]; 05-134 [judge may preside at and offer a critique of a mock trial training program for attorneys who represent battered women, if the judge determines that equal time will be given to both sides of the issues and the judge remains neutral]).
Based on the information you have provided, it appears that your proposed program involves information of general application to the area of Domestic Violence and will address both victim and offender-oriented issues. In addition, the proposed speakers include defense attorneys, prosecutors, children's lawyers and social workers, who represent the various constituent groups involved in Domestic Violence issues. Therefore, you may organize and co-sponsor with the Appellate Division, Second Department’s Office of Attorneys for Children, a Continuing Legal Education program addressing various issues relating to family violence for lawyers and members of the courthouse staff
I have enclosed Opinions 09-127, 06-73, 05-134, 04-34 and Joint Opinion 00-54/00-56 (Vol. XIX) for your information.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow
Assoc. Justice, Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)