June 14, 2012
Digest: A judge may write a letter in support of a municipality’s application for a grant to improve the overall safety and accessibility of the municipal facility that houses the court and the court clerk’s office.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iii); Opinion 07-109.
The inquiring part-time judges ask whether they may “write a letter of support” for their municipality’s application for a federal community facilities grant. The judges state that any grant funds awarded will be used to improve security, handicap accessibility, maintenance and safety in the municipal facility that houses the court and the court clerk’s office. According to information the judges provided, their letter would be addressed to the federal agency but delivered to a municipal official for inclusion as part of the municipality’s grant application.
A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). A judge may make recommendations to public and private fund-granting organizations on projects and programs concerning the law, the legal system or the administration of justice (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][iii]).
The Committee has previously advised that a judge may advocate for passage of a bond resolution to fund a new court facility to replace facilities the judge considered “grossly inadequate” (Opinion 07-109). The Committee noted that “[u]nlike advocating funding for a library, the successful completion of a new court facility ... will affect the law, the legal system and the administration of justice” (id.).
On the facts presented, the municipality’s grant application seeks to improve the overall safety and accessibility of the court’s facilities and, therefore, would directly affect the administration of justice. Therefore, the inquiring judges may write letters in support of the grant application (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][iii]; Opinion 07-109).