January 19, 1995
Digest: Judges may provide informational radio messages explaining the jurisdiction and procedures of the court.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.3(a)(b) 100.4 (a)
A county magistrates' association inquires as to the propriety of judges speaking on the legal system on a local radio station. The brief comments will be in the nature of public service messages. As explained by the inquirer:
Judges intend to speak only on the jurisdiction of the justice court, the types of cases which are handled in the justice court, and information to the citizen concerning his/her ability to commence a small claim or a civil action in the civil court. The speakers will not give their opinions on the law or any case before them nor will the speaker discuss any area of law. The purpose of the messages is for information only.
The judge's name will be mentioned, but judges running for office will not be permitted to give a message.
The Committee is of the opinion that the activity contemplated is permissible.
Section 100.3(a)(b) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator, which prohibits judges from publicly commenting on pending or impending court matters, explicitly excludes from such prohibition, "explaining for public information" the procedures of the court. Further, Section 100.4(a) of the Rules permits a judge to "speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice". The radio messages described readily fall within the permissible range of public statements that may be made by judges.