December 14, 1995
Digest: A judge should not remain a member of a Community Advisory Board of a municipal Health and Hospitals Corporation, where it is likely that the organization will be engaged in matters of substantial public controversy.
Rules: New York Constitution Art. VI, Sec. 20; 22 NYCRR 100.5(b)
Prior to being elected to a full-time judgeship, the inquirer had been a board member of a Community Advisory Board (“CAB”) of a municipal Health and Hospitals Corporation facility ("HHC"). The position is that of an "unpaid community representative." The inquirer asks whether continued service as a CAB member is permissible.
The initial question is whether such a position constitutes a "public office or trust" within the meaning of Article VI, section 20 of the New York State Constitution. If so, then by virtue of the particular judicial office held by the inquirer, continued service is barred. The Committee notes, however, that such a question is one of state constitutional law which this Committee, in this instance, is not in a position to resolve. Further, it is also noted that the possibility of the judge remaining on the CAB required a waiver of the organization's Policies and Guidelines which otherwise bars elected public officials from serving on the CAB.
Moreover, it is the understanding of the Committee that Community Advisory Boards of the Health and Hospitals Corporation have been involved in matters of substantial public controversy. Thus, while section 100.5 (b) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct permits a judge to participate in civic and charitable activities, such service is deemed inappropriate where there is a likelihood of significant public controversy. Thus, the Committee is of the view that under these circumstances, continued service on the CAB is inadvisable.