January 20, 2011
This responds to your inquiry (10-172) asking whether you may maintain a personal judicial website.
Pursuant to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct (Rules), a judge must uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary (see, 22 NYCRR 100.1). However, a judge need not maintain his/her own website, separate from a municipality’s website, to comply with this mandate. The justice court is undeniably a separate, equal branch of municipal government. Posting court hours, the monthly court calendar, judges’ biographical information, and downloadable forms on a municipality’s website does not violate this Rule. In fact, it is more likely that the residents of the municipality would visit the municipality’s website for such information than a site a judge maintains separately.
If you are concerned that court information will be misrepresented on the municipality’s website, you should work with the municipality to correct it. You may enlist the assistance of your district supervising judge for town and village courts to do so.
Judges also must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all their 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 personal judicial website is inconsistent with this Rule as such a website could mislead members of the public who would reasonably assume that it is “official” and has the imprimatur of the Unified Court System. Such an impression is particularly problematic given the topics you would include on the website, some of which could easily be construed as legal advice. In addition, including such information on a personal judicial website could cause your impartiality to reasonably be questioned (see, 22 NYCRR 100.3[E]).
Finally, a judge who creates his/her own personal judicial website may appear to be using the prestige of judicial office to advance his/her own private interests, which is prohibited by the Rules (see, 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).
Therefore, establishing a personal judicial website is improper.