May 25, 1989
Topic: Propriety of a judge preparing a fact pattern and presiding over a moot court criminal trial based thereon, with students participating as the prosecutor, defense counsel, defendant and witnesses, and with parents and friends of their parents acting as jurors. The program is initiated by two middle school students.
Digest: A judge may participate in moot court activities designed to teach students and the public concerning the law and the legal system.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4, 100.4(a)
A judge asks about the propriety of participating in a moot court exercise, initiated by two middle school students, wherein the judge will prepare a simple fact pattern and preside over a criminal trial based thereon, with the students of the middle school acting as the prosecutor, defense counsel, defendant and witnesses, and with parents and their friends comprising the jury.
Activities of this nature, whether they are on a middle school or university level, are to be encouraged as exemplary extra-judicial activities and are clearly proper pursuant to Section 100.4 of the Rules o€ the Chief Administrator (22 NYCRR 100.4), which states in part:
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 came 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 moot court is to be conducted consistent with the dignity and integrity of the judge's position and at a time that does not interfere with the judge's regular judicial duties. The judge must he careful not to express opinions or to compose the fact situation or preside at the trial 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. See also Opinions 88-106 and 88-133 of the Advisory Committee.