Opinion: 99-74

April 29, 1999

Digest: A part-time town justice should not accept appointment to the town's Water Advisory Committee if there is a substantial likelihood that the committee will be involved in matters of public controversy.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.6 (B) (4);
           Opinions 88-109 (Vol. III); 89-82 (Vol. V);
           89-156, (Vol. V); 89-157, (Vol. V); 90-7, (Vol. V);
           90-14, (Vol. V), 93-94, (Vol. XI); 93-108, (Vol. XII);
           94-02 (Vol. XII); 94-98 (Vol. XII); 95-50, (Vol. XIII);
           96-09, (Vol. XIV).


            A town justice inquires whether it is permissible to accept appointment to the town's Water Advisory Committee. Members of the Advisory Board are appointed by the Town Board on a non-partisan basis, are not involved with fund-raising, and do not vote. However, the judge states that the Committee's recommendations may become a subject of controversy "both because of the importance of a quality water supply and the eventual cost of securing it."

            The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provide that a part-time judge may accept public employment in a federal , state or municipal department or agency, provided that such employment is not incompatible with judicial office and does not conflict with or interfere with the proper performance of the judge's duties. 22 NYCRR 100.6 (B) (4).

            Applying this Rule, this Committee has approved part-time judges accepting appointment to a county fire advisory board (Opinion 89-156 [Vol. V]); a town's board of assessment review (Opinion 90-14 [Vol. V]); a citizen's committee to reduce violence (Opinion 93-108 [Vol. XII]); a county agricultural advisory committee, (Opinion 94-98 [Vol. XII]); and a city Industrial Development Agency (Opinion 95-50, [Vol. XIII]). On the other hand, the Committee has disapproved appointment to or membership in committees that focus on "political or controversial issues" such as local school boards (Opinions 89-157 [Vol. V] and 90-7, [Vol. V]); zoning or planning boards (Opinions 88-109 [Vol. III]; 89-82 [Vol. V]; 93-94 [Vol. XI]); and a regional council dealing with the management of natural resources, Opinion 94-02 (Vol. XII).

            Since the inquiring judge has expressly indicated in the inquiry that the subject matter of the Water Advisory Committee is likely to become controversial, service on the committee would appear to be incompatible with judicial office, and therefore the judge should decline the appointment.