December 5, 2017
This responds to your inquiry (17-148) asking if you, as a full-time judge, may give free legal advice to union members at a union-sponsored event and 2) whether you may lecture non-lawyer union members on general legal topics at a union-sponsored event.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibit a full-time judge from practicing law, with limited exceptions not applicable here (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[G]). Therefore, you may not offer free legal advice to union members at this event.
However, a judge may speak, lecture, or teach (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[B]) provided such activities are not incompatible with judicial office and do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge, detract from the dignity of judicial office, or interfere with the proper performance of the judicial duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A]-). The Committee has previously advised that such permissible activities include serving as a lecturer on specific legal topics. However, in doing so, the judge must be careful not to offer legal advice or to promote a particular point of view or support one side in a particular class of cases. In addition, the judge may not comment about pending or impending proceedings in any court within the United States or its territories (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[B]).
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 13-29, 09-181 and 02-20 which address these issues.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Div., First Dep’t (Ret.)
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Family Court Judge
Acting Justice, Supreme Court