June 21, 2017
This responds to your inquiry (17-88) asking whether you may serve on a committee established by a local prosecutor to address certain legal issues concerning a prosecutor’s discovery obligations. You indicate that the committee will consist of the criminal defense bar, representatives of the local Legal Aid Society, the director of the local 18B panel and senior prosecutors.
The Committee has previously advised that it is permissible for a judge to engage in activities which are “devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice” (22 NYCRR 100.4[C]). Where, as here, the committee is “balanced among lawyers representing all interests before the court” it is “appropriate - indeed necessary -” for judges to participate in discussions between lawyers aimed at the functioning and improvement of the court system (Opinion 07-188)1. Such discussions are, of course, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct. Therefore, an attending judge should avoid discussing pending or impending matters, avoid demonstrating any predisposition to deciding a specific case in a certain way and avoid any ex parte communications concerning a pending matter.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 11-29; 07-188; 08-09 and 11-41 which address this issue.
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
1 Indeed, this particular legal issue “may have possible constitutional dimensions” (Opinion 14-144 n3).