Opinion: 98-56

April 23, 1998


Digest:    A full-time judge may serve as a observer with a not-for-profit civilrights group observing an election in a foreign country.

Rules:    22 NYCRR 100.4


            A full-time judge inquires if it is permissible to serve as an observer in behalf of a well known civil rights group, in elections taking place in an African nation. The judge is informed that the country is experiencing a transfer from military government to democratic civilian rule. The role of observers will be limited to observing and reporting the events taking place. The judge will be serving with a large group consisting of representatives of the Jimmy Carter Center for Peace; Americans for Democracy in Africa; United Nations; Carnegie Institute for Peace; World Conference of Mayors; National Newspapers Publishers Association and others. All expenses of the judge will be paid by the group, in addition to reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses up to a maximum of $1,000.

            Section 100.4 of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct (22 NYCRR 100.4) states:

            A judge shall conduct the judge's extra-judicial activities
            as to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial obligations.
            A) Extra Judicial Activities in General.
                A judge shall conduct all of the judge's extra-judicial
            activities so that they do not;

                        (1) cast reasonable doubt on the judges capacity to act impartially as to act a judge;
                        (2) detract from the dignity of judicial office; or
                        (3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not incompatible with judicial office.

            The sponsoring organization is non-governmental; accredited to the United Nations; and engaged in civil rights and human rights activities. Its activities do not conflict with the inquirer's judicial duties. Nor does it appear the judge will become involved in any controversy resulting from the elections. Accordingly, the Committee concludes the judge may serve as observer of the elections.