March 10, 1994
Digest: A judge may be a member of a non-partisan citizens’ committee which seeks ways to reduce violence in the community, but may not participate in controversial issues, litigation, fund raising or other activities incompatible with judicial office.
Rules: 22 NYCRR §§100.4; 100.5(a),(b) (2)
A full time judge has been asked to be a member of a non-partisan citizens’ committee, the purpose of which is to seek ways to reduce violence in the community. Its membership includes labor and business leaders, criminal justice professionals, educators, attorneys and representatives from the religious community. The public is invited to participate and its meetings are open to the public and the media. Recommendations are made, including the promotion of legislation concerning gun safety. The judge asks whether membership on the committee is permissible.
The Committee is of the opinion that, in principle there is no objection to the judge’s membership in the organization. But, in light of the broad scope of the matters that may come before the committee, the judge should exercise care not to participate in controversial issues. Nor should the judge participate in litigation or in fund-raising activities.
Specifically, the judge is to be guided by 22 NYCRR §100.4 relating to quasi-judicial activities, §100.5(a) with respect to extra-judicial activities, and §100.5(b) (2) relating to solicitation of funds for non-profit organizations. Rule 100.4 permits a judge to engage in certain quasi-judicial activities so long as such participation does not cause doubt on the capacity of the judge to decide impartially any issue that may come before him or her. Rule 100.5(a) permits extra-judicial activities that do not interfere with the performance of judicial duties, and Rule 100.5(b) (2) authorizes participation in civic and charitable activities, but prohibits the solicitation of funds or the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose. Thus, the judge’s membership in the committee is permissible so long as such participation in the work of the committee is not incompatible with judicial office.