March 15, 2012
This responds to your inquiry (12-27) asking whether it is ethically permissible to attend an awards ceremony for caseworkers in the Department of Social Services when county attorneys, legal aid and 18B attorneys have also been invited to attend.
All judges must avoid impropriety and 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]). Further, judges may engage in extra-judicial activities so long as these activities do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge; do not detract from the dignity of judicial office; or do not interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not incompatible with judicial office (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A]-).
The fact that you would not actively participate in the ceremony and members of both sides of the prosecuting and defense bar will be invited to attend alleviates any risk that your impartiality may reasonably be questioned.
Enclosed, for your convenience are Opinions 08-191; 04-91 and 99-150 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)