Opinion 88-109 (Corrected)
December 8, 1988
Topic: May a town justice serve as chairman of the town planning broad?
Digest: A town justice may not act as chairman of the town planning board.
Rules: 22 NYCRR §§100.2; 1OO.S(b)(1)
A town justice inquires about the propriety of his appointment as chairman of the town planning board, which promulgates policy directed to land use and the development of the town. He states that the few zoning cases which have come before him as town justice were transferred to the other justice of the same town.
Section 100.2 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts provides that a judge “shall conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary.” Section 1OO.5(b)(1) of the Rules states that a judge may not serve in a civic organization if it's likely that the organization “ will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court.” The Committee believes that the same restriction should apply to chairmanship of a town planning board.
The justice may not serve as chairman of the board, because the board's work might entail the issuance of controversial decisions. In addition, the chairman of the town planning board may be involved as a party in Article 78 proceedings, thus violating section 1OO.5(b)(1) of the Rules. See also Opinion 571 of the Committee on Professional Ethics of the New York State Bar Association, dated July 8, 1985 [attorney for zoning board of appeals and planning board may not also accept position as town justice].