Opinion: 98-148
March 11, 1999
Digest:    It is not ethically improper for a town or village court to use court security services provided by local, county or State law enforcement agencies or peace officers.

Rule:        Judiciary Law § 403;
                22 NYCRR 100.1;
                Opinion 96-133 (Vol. XV).


            A town justice asks if there are any ethical rules prohibiting the use of local, county or State police officers or peace officers to provide court security services in the local court.

            In Opinion 96-133 (Vol. XV), this Committee advised that the Chief of Police of the town should not be employed as Court Attendant providing court security services in the town court. The opinion was based on the concern that the office of Chief of Police carries with it the exercise of authority, supervision and control over all subordinate police officers employed by the municipality. Thus, the Chief's appearance as a Court Attendant might lead to the erroneous perception that there is some officially sanctioned relationship between the local police department and the court, thereby bringing into question the independence of the judiciary. 22 NYCRR 100.1. But this perception, does not, as we noted in Opinion 96-133 (Vol. XV), necessarily apply to local police officers and peace officers of ranks other than that of Chief or similar titles designating the highest ranking commander of the agency.

            Additionally, the Committee notes that local police officers and peace officers have traditionally provided court security services in the various courts in which state-employed Unified Court System Uniformed Court Officers do not serve. Indeed, the Judiciary Law requires that the sheriff of each county outside of New York City "must, within a reasonable time before the sitting, in his county, of any term of court, notify, in writing or personally, as many constables or deputy sheriffs of his county, as he deems necessary, to appear and attend upon the term during its sitting." Judiciary Law § 403.

            Under such circumstances, we perceive no overriding ethical considerations that prevent a town or village judge from accepting court security services from local, county, or State peace officers or law enforcement agencies.