September 12, 2019
Digest: A judge may not write and publish an online review of a personal vacation or a professional vacation organized by a bar association or other professional organization.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.2(C); 100.4(A)(1)-(3); Opinions 15-103; 14-85; 12-26; 05-126; 97-133.
A full-time judge asks if he/she may write an online review of (1) a personal vacation; or (2) a personal/professional vacation organized by a bar association or other professional organization. The judge also seeks guidance regarding the use of his/her first and last name in writing the online review and/or the use of his/her judicial title in reviewing the professional aspects of the trip.
A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). A judge must conduct his/her extra-judicial activities so that they do not (1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as 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 (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A]-). Moreover, a judge must not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance any private interests (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).
We have advised that judges may not provide written testimonials or other similar statements for use in promoting a professional enterprise (see Opinions 15-103 [judge may not write a review of the professional services of his/her divorce lawyer on an online rating service]; 14-85 [judge may not provide a testimonial for the judge’s former campaign manager to use in advertisements]; 12-26 [judge may not provide endorsement for a book’s back cover]; 05-126 [judge may not provide letter of reference for promotion of friend’s real estate business]; 97-133 [judge may not provide a testimonial to be used in the promotion of a criminal practice book]). In such circumstances, we reasoned that publishing the judge’s remarks about the professional services he/she personally received would impermissibly lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of others (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]; Opinions 15-103; 14-85).
Here, too, we reach the same conclusion. Accordingly, we conclude that the judge may not write a review for online publication of a personal vacation or a vacation organized by a bar association or other professional organization, regardless of whether such remarks promote or criticize the professional services received. Such conduct is ethically impermissible, as it could lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of others, even if the review were anonymous and made no reference to the judge’s status (see Opinion 15-103).