May 25, 2018
This responds to your inquiry (18-59) asking whether it is ethically permissible to be interviewed by a news station about an alternative to incarceration program which uses art as a means of rehabilitation for eligible defendants. Although you are now presiding over a different type of specialized treatment court, you indicate that several years ago you mandated participation in this art program in a specialized diversion part, on consent of the parties in appropriate cases. The news station would like to interview you in a single segment about your past professional relationship with this art program and “about what makes this program effective and unique.”
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct mandate that a judge’s judicial duties “take precedence over all the judge’s other activities” (22 NYCRR 100.3[A]). Nevertheless, a judge may generally 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]-). Thus, a judge may speak about topics related to the law and the administration of justice, subject to generally applicable limitations, such as the public comment rule and the prohibition on ex parte communications (see 22 NYCRR 100.3, ).
We have advised that a judge may speak on a news program about a law-related topic, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 17-131; 14-99; and 10-102 which address this issue. Also enclosed is Opinion 17-152 which relates to the issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Div., First Dep’t
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Family Court Judge
Acting Justice, Supreme Court