December 9, 1993
Digest: A part-time local justice may not accept an honorary position as Special Deputy Sheriff, albeit unpaid and unaccompanied by specific law enforcement duties.
Rules: 22 NYCRR §§100.1, 100.2 and 100.5(h).
A part-time local justice asks whether it is ethically proper to accept an appointment as a special deputy sheriff in the same county where the judge presides, although the geographic jurisdiction of the judge’s court is not normally patrolled by the sheriff’s department.
The judge states the position is purely honorary, unpaid, and involves no participation in any law enforcement activities by the judge. Moreover, the inquiry adds that sheriff’s deputies normally do not appear in the judge’s court.
The acceptance of a position as a peace officer, albeit only honorary, gives a clear appearance of partiality, because the public’s natural inference would likely be that the judge is aligned – even if only in spirit – with representatives of the law enforcement establishment who appear in court (22 NYCRR 100.1 and 100.2[e]).
Moreover, it would “convey the impression” that police officers who appear before the judge “are in a special position to influence him or her” (22 NYCRR 100.2(c). It makes no difference that the sheriff’s deputies normally do not appear in the judge’s court, because the public does not always notice the distinction between officers in various departments who exercise, or appear to exercise parallel jurisdiction.