June 27, 2001
Digest: A full-time judge should not accept appointment to the board of directors of the county Industrial Development Agency.
Rules: Gen. Mun. Law §852; 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(2)(a);Opinions 99-74 94-02 (Vol. XIII); 88-109 (Vol. III).
A full-time county court judge inquires whether it is permissible to accept appointment to the board of directors of the county's Industrial Development Agency (hereinafter "IDA"). The position is non-compensated and the appointment comes from the county legislature. The inquiring judge believes that his/her appointment would "forge and foster partnerships by and between the court system [i.e. Drug Courts] and economic institutions and entities in our community."
The Committee is of the opinion that it is not permissible for a full-time judge to accept such an appointment because of the inevitable involvement of the judge in the political and controversial issues which come before the IDA. Section 100.4(C)(2)(a) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provides, in pertinent part, that a "full-time judge shall not accept appointment to a governmental committee or commission or other governmental positions that is concerned with issues of fact or policy in matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice." The essence of section 100.4(C)(2)(a) is to minimize the risk of a conflict between duties and responsibilities of a full-time sitting judge and his or her role in other organizations. General Municipal Law §852 states that IDAs are "governmental agencies and instrumentalities." Such a declaration thus triggers the application of section 100.4(C)(2)(a). Additionally, included among the purposes of an IDA is the goal of promoting economic welfare and attracting commerce. G.M.L. §852. This is accomplished by forming financial and pecuniary relationships with businesses inside and outside of the community. See e.g., JCIDA, Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, <http://www.sunyjefferson.edu/JCJDC/JCIDA/> (discussing the amount of taxable and tax-free industrial revenue bonds available for interested businesses). Such choices by a government agency are essentially policy decisions that have no bearing upon the improvement of the law, legal system, or the administration of justice, and inherently involve issues that are political or controversial in nature. See Opinions 99-74, 94-02 (Vol. XIII), 88-109 (Vol. III).
The Committee does take notice of the efforts of the judge in the instant case to further the effectiveness of the county's "Drug Court" by utilizing a confluence of community resources. However, this purported unity of effort represents only one of the many facets of an IDA. Other economically motivated decisions of an IDA are simply incompatible with the duties of a full-time judge, given their inherent political or controversial nature. As a consequence, we are of the opinion of that a full-time judge should not accept an appointment to the board of directors of the county's IDA.