April 26, 2012
Digest: A full-time judge who presides over matters involving the county police department and its officers may not serve on the board of directors of a not-for-profit “Law Enforcement Exploring” program which is designed to promote law enforcement careers and is jointly administered with the county police department.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1)-(3); 100.4(C)(3); Opinions 12-88; 07-52; 98-100 (Vol. XVII); 94-85 (Vol. XII); 92-112 (Vol. X).
A full-time judge who presides over matters involving the county police department and its officers asks whether he/she may serve on the board of directors of a not-for-profit program that “helps young adults to gain insight into a variety of programs that offer hands-on career activities” and “is designed for young adults who are interested in finding out what challenges are involved in a career in Law Enforcement.” The program is “administered by a Board of Directors, the [county] Police Department, and [a separate not-for-profit entity].” The Police Commissioner is the program’s honorary chair. The inquiring judge states that he/she would not participate in any fund-raising activities or give legal advice to the board.
A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). A judge may engage in extra-judicial activities that are not incompatible with judicial office and do not (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 (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A]-). Subject to these and other limitations, a judge may serve as an officer, director or non-legal advisor of a civic or charitable organization not conducted for profit (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C]).
The Committee has previously advised that a judge may not be an honorary member of a local sheriff’s association (see Opinion 12-88); a member of an association of active police officers and chiefs (see Opinion 92-112 [Vol. X]); a member and Treasurer of a county police association (see Opinion 94-85 [Vol. XII]); an honorary director of a law enforcement foundation, the purpose of which is to support law enforcement departments financially and with equipment (see Opinion 98-100 [Vol. XVII]); and should not serve on the crime-prevention subcommittee of a city program designed to revitalize crime-ridden neighborhoods when, under the circumstances presented, the program as a whole could be perceived as a law-enforcement program and could also result in cases which would frequently come before the judge’s court (see Opinion 07-52).
In the Committee’s view, the inquiring judge’s proposed service on the board of directors of the described not-for-profit program could similarly cause the judge’s impartiality to reasonably be questioned because the program is entirely devoted to promoting careers in law enforcement and is administered by the county police department, the county Police Commissioner serves as honorary chair of the board, and the judge regularly presides over matters involving the county police department and its police officers (see Opinions 12-88; 07-52; 98-100 [Vol. XVII]; 94-85 [Vol. XII]; 92-112 [Vol. X]). Therefore, the inquiring judge may not serve on the program’s board (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A]).