February 1, 2011
This responds to your inquiry (10-189) asking whether as the professor of a law school class, you may discuss judicial decisions that are relevant to the class topic. You indicate that you are aware that the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibit you from commenting on any pending or impending cases, but that you will not offer your personal opinion about any decisions that you discuss.
In Opinion 95-105 (Vol. XIII), the Committee advised that while judges are prohibited from making public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court within the United States or its territories (see, 22 NYCRR 100.3[B]), judges are permitted to speak, write, lecture and teach (see, 22 NYCRR 100.4[B]). The Committee further advised that,
“[E]ngaging in discussion with students about current events involving cases being tried in other localities, generally speaking, can in no way negatively impact the criminal justice system” (see id.). Nevertheless, the Committee further advised that judges should refrain from making gratuitous and unnecessarily controversial statements about pending cases, and should avoid any discussion of cases pending within the general jurisdictional locale of the judge's court (see id.; Opinion 01-03).
Therefore, you may discuss cases during your law school class that are relevant to the subject matter you are teaching, but not a case in which you are presiding or one pending in the jurisdiction where you preside.
I have enclosed copies of Opinions 01-03 and 95-105 (Vol. XIII) for your convenience.