December 8, 1988
Topic: Propriety of a Surrogate who, on cross assignment, hears abuse and neglect cases, of serving on the board of directors of a county task force on child abuse and neglect, which is a not-for-profit, educational corporation.
Digest: A judge hearing abuse and neglect cases is prohibited from serving on the board of directors of a county task force on child abuse and neglect.
Rules: 22 NYCRR §100.5(b)
A Surrogate Court Judge seeks an opinion as to the propriety of serving on the board of directors of a county task force on child abuse and neglect, which is funded by a charitable organization. The primary function of the task force is the education of the public at large. The group does not appear in court or file amicus briefs.
Although the organization would not ordinarily come before the judge or engage in adversary proceedings in any court [22 NYCRR 1OO.5(b)(1)], its public education function and its name alone might raise a question and might, “reflect adversely upon impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties” [22 NYCRR Section 100.5(b)] of the judge in question. It is not necessarily the actual lack of impartiality or the actual interference with the performance of judicial duties that are determinative of the propriety of the situation in question, but rather the possible appearance of impartiality or interference with the performance of judicial duties that is the basis of the prohibition. Accordingly, the judge should not serve with this organization.