November 2, 2012
This responds to your inquiry (12-126) asking whether there is a “proper basis” for you to address a college class at your alma mater on a topical, controversial issue which is the subject of a recent trial court decision you authored and is currently on appeal. The public policy course at this private institution will use the current debate on this issue as a case study.
While judges are prohibited from making public comments about pending or impending cases 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 has previously commented that engaging students in discussions about current events “can in no way negatively impact the criminal justice system” (Opinion 95-105). However, “judges should refrain from making gratuitous and unnecessar[y], controversial statements about pending cases, and they should avoid any discussion of cases pending within the general jurisdictional locale of [their] ... court” (id.).
Accordingly, you may discuss the role of the courts vis a vis the legislative and executive branches as well as any cases relevant to the issue the students are studying, provided you do not discuss any cases over which you presided or any cases pending in the jurisdiction in which you preside.
Regarding your further inquiry about the propriety of accepting travel expenses or an honorarium, reasonable compensation is permissible subject to the limitations and reporting requirements set forth in 22 NYCRR 100.4(H)(1) and (2).
Enclosed for your convenience are Opinions 10-187; 01-03 and 95-105 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow,
Assoc. Justice (Ret.)
Appellate Division, First Dep’t