January 19, 1995
Digest: A judge may not participate in a television production intended to result in a television series based upon the judge’s judicial experiences and life, for which the judge would receive compensation. Nor may the judge execute a release concerning court proceedings.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.5(c)(2)
A Supreme Court justice who presides in a part which handles cases of juveniles indicted as “juvenile offenders” has been approached by a television production group which proposes “to do a pilot television movie and, if successful, a weekly hour-long drama series for network television inspired by the work of the ... Part and certain aspects of my life experience.” The show will draw on the format used in the Part, of informal chamber conferences, deferred sentencing and close monitoring. “One of the leading characters of the show will be the presiding judge.”
The judge states that the “production team seeks my consent in the form of a release, to develop such a program based on and inspired by my work in the ... Part.” The judge has asked for the right to review all scripts.
According to the inquirer, “The production group has offered to compensate me for my release and cooperation as aforesaid. It will be in the form of a flat sum, contingent on the sale of a television movie script to a network, and if a television series evolves, a flat sum for each episode, based on an upward sliding scale over the several years of new production.”
The judge ask whether the proposal violates any ethical constrictions.
The Committee is of the opinion that the judge may not participate in the activities contemplated. First, the release being requested appears to be of the judge, not in the judge’s individual capacity but rather as a judge representing the judge’s court. The judge has no authority to issue a release in such capacity.
Further, section 100.5(c)(2) of the Rules of Judicial Conduct forbids a full-time judge from being an active participant in any form of business enterprise organized for profit, which, in this case, would include serving as an advisor. The rule would seem to bar the judge’s participation in the activity described.