June 25, 2013
This responds to your inquiry (13-19) asking whether you may accede to a local law enforcement agency’s request to produce a list of vehicle and traffic defendants your court has reported to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend their drivers’ licenses for failing to pay a fine or failing to appear in court.
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]).
The Committee previously has advised that a judge should not compile information at the district attorney’s request to assist the district attorney and his/her staff prepare for their court appearances (see Opinions 09-94; 07-115). In the Committee’s view, doing so risks compromising the independence of the judiciary and public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and may cause an appearance of impropriety (see Opinion 09-94).
For the same reasons, the Committee also has advised that a judge should not notify police officers of the dates of trials at which they may be called to testify (see Opinion 96-150 [Vol. XV]) and should not allow the state police to determine trial dates in vehicle and traffic law cases to avoid incurring overtime costs associated with court appearances by state police officers (see Opinion 09-160).
Similarly, you should not, at a law enforcement agency’s request, produce a list of defendants your court has reported to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
Of course if the records the law enforcement agency seeks are available to the public, agency staff may access them in accordance with applicable law.
I have enclosed Opinions 09-94, 07-115 and 96-150.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)