Opinion 14-104

June 12, 2014


Digest:         A judge who is also employed as an adjunct law school professor and co-director of a law school program may participate in a promotional video that will be displayed on the program’s website.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.4(A)(1)-(3); 100.4(B); 100.4(H)(1)(c)(2); 100.4(H)(2); Opinion 14-93; 11-17; 09-73; 09-09; 05-06; 02-38; 02-21; 01-104; 96-75 (Vol. XIV); 92-05 (Vol. IX); 91-19 (Vol. VII).


         The inquiring judge states that he/she is also employed part-time as an adjunct professor at a law school and serves as co-director of a law school program. The judge advises that the law school is designing a website for the program, which will include a promotional video featuring brief interviews with both instructors and students. The instructors will discuss “what we do to train our students” in a particular area of the law and “help prepare them” for practice in that area. The judge asks whether he/she may also “be part of that video to talk about the program from my perspective as co-director.”

         A judge must avoid impropriety and its appearance in all the judge’s activities (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]). A judge may speak, write, lecture, teach and otherwise engage in extra-judicial activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[B]) but must ensure that such activities 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][1]-[3]). A judge may accept ordinary compensation for a lecture or for teaching a regular course of study at a college or university, if the teaching does not conflict with the proper performance of judicial duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[H][1][c][2]) and, further, subject to certain reporting requirements in the case of a full-time judge (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[H][2]).

          The Committee has advised that a judge may teach a course at a law school (see Opinions 09-73; 05-06), and may serve as an adjunct law professor for a private university (see Opinions 09-09; 92-05 [Vol. IX]). As an adjunct professor, a judge may join and participate in lawful activities of a faculty association (Opinion 11-17) and may authorize a college to use faculty records that contain information about the judge for the purpose of seeking accreditation (see Opinion 01-104).

         The Committee has also advised that a judge may assist in “[t]he recruitment of outstanding students for an academic institution” (Opinion 91-19 [Vol. VII]; see also Opinion 14-93 [discussing prior opinions]). Thus, for example, provided that no fund-raising is involved, the Committee has advised that a judge may welcome prospective students and their families at the Open House of the college from which the judge graduated and at which the judge serves as adjunct faculty (see Opinion 02-38); may permit the judge’s law school alma mater to feature the judge as a “high achieving alumna” on a postcard to encourage lawyers to rate the law school favorably in a magazine’s annual law school ranking survey (Opinion 96-75 [Vol. XIV]); and may allow his/her name, photograph and biography to be used by his/her alma mater “in an advertising campaign to encourage the recruitment of students” (Opinion 02-21).

         The inquiring judge believes the video will be accessible to anyone interested in the program and to prospective law students who might be considering applying to the law school. It appears the purpose of the video is to encourage prospective students to enroll in the law school and/or the program the judge serves as co-director. As it further appears from the inquiry that the video does not involve solicitation of funds and will not be used to raise funds, the judge’s proposed participation is permissible (see generally Opinions 14-93; 02-38; 91-19 [Vol. VII]).