September 15, 2011
Digest: A judge may sign a statement of support for a school district's campaign to promote good school attendance.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.4; 100.4(A)(1)-(3).
A family court judge whose caseload includes many neglect, Persons In Need of Supervision (PINS) and juvenile delinquency matters has been invited to participate in a local school district’s campaign to promote regular school attendance. The campaign “will include community outreach and education, family engagement and positive acknowledgment of students” who achieve a specified attendance threshold. The judge asks whether he/she may “‘pledge’ to promote good school attendance” as the school district has requested, by signing a statement of support for the campaign.1
A judge must avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always act to promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). Thus, when engaging in extra-judicial activities, a judge must minimize the risk of conflict with his/her judicial obligations (see 22 NYCRR 100.4) and must avoid any extra-judicial activities that (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]-).
In the present inquiry, the proposed statement of support, although referred to as a “pledge,” does not appear to be controversial and does not contain any express or implied pledge or promise of conduct by the judge in his/her judicial capacity. Therefore, under the circumstances presented, the Committee sees no potential conflict with the judge’s appearance of impartiality nor with any other of his/her judicial obligations (cf. 22 NYCRR 100.4[A]-). Accordingly, the judge may sign the proposed statement of support for the school district’s campaign to promote good school attendance.
1The statement reads, in part: “Regular school attendance is critical to student achievement and success. Being present, on time and ready to learn are essential components of being a respectful, responsible and safe student and citizen. Promoting exemplary school attendance requires collaboration among students, families, school personnel and the entire community.”