Opinion: 01-97

October 25, 2001

Digest:  On the facts presented, a part-time judge may be an investor in a local newspaper.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.4(D)(1).


            A part-time judge, who is one of several persons interested in taking over the responsibility of publishing a local town newspaper which is now published by the chamber of commerce, inquires as to the potential ethical implications. The newspaper comes out every four to six weeks, and each edition is four to six pages long. It consists mostly of "advertisements with some 'home-town flavor,' and articles with old pictures submitted by readers." The cost of publishing the paper is covered by the revenue derived from subscriptions and advertisements. Although political advertisements from all parties and candidates are accepted during the electoral season, the newspaper does not endorse particular candidates, and there is no indication that it would be taking positions on controversial matters. The judge would have no role in the editing of the newspaper.

            A judge, whether part-time or full-time, is prohibited from engaging in financial and business dealings that "(a) may reasonably be perceived to exploit the judge's judicial position, (b) involve the judge with any business, organization or activity that ordinarily will come before the judge, or (c) involve the judge in frequent transactions or continuing business relationships with those lawyers or other persons likely to come before the court on which the judge serves." 22 NYCRR 100.4(D)(1). None of these factors seems to be present. Because the judge's involvement will be limited to that of an investor, and given the nature of the content of the newspaper, the Committee believes it is permissible for the judge to participate as stated.