Topic: Extra-judicial activities; television appearances by judge on talk show to discuss legal matters.
Digest: A judge may appear on a television talk show to discuss various legal topics provided such appearance does not interfere with the judge’s judicial duties and that the judge does not give opinions which would cast doubt on the judge’s impartiality.
Rules: 22NYCRR §100.4 (a)
A judge asks whether there is any prohibition in the judge’s appearance on a television talk show to discuss legal matters, such as plea bargaining, negligence cases and the jurisdiction and procedures in Small Claims Court. The judge will receive no compensation for the appearance, which will last for approximately five minutes.
Section 100.4 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator states that:
A judge, subject to the proper performance of his or her judicial duties, may engage in the following quasi-judicial activities, if in doing so the judge does not cause doubt on the capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before him or her.
(a) A judge may speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice.
The appearance on a television talk show to discuss various aspects of the law is permissible under the foregoing rule. Such appearance, of course, cannot take place at a time that would interfere with the judge’s regular judicial duties. Moreover, the judge must be careful not to express opinions or to present the particular topic in any way that would indicate the judge has a predisposition with respect to particular cases, which could cast doubt on the judge’s impartiality. The judge’s presentation should be factual and instructive about the procedures and parameters of the particular subject, but should not include comment about any pending matters. It is important, moreover, that the program involved be one consistent with the dignity and integrity of the judicial office.
This opinion is advisory only and does not bind either the Office of Court Administration or the Commission on Judicial Conduct.