Opinion 02-57

June 7, 2002


Digest:         A judge may serve as a president, vice- president, director, secretary, assistant chief or engineer for a local volunteer fire department so long as those positions do not confer peace officer status and do not involve investigative responsibilities.


Rules:          CPL § 2.10; 22 NYCRR 100.4(A); Opinions 88-114 (Vol. III); 89-147 (Vol. IV); 90-50 (Vol. V); 90-61 (Vol. V);95-06 (Vol. XIII); 95-102 (Vol. XIII); 98-54(Vol. XVI).


         A part-time judge asks whether it is ethically permissible to serve as president, vice president, member of the board of directors, secretary, assistant chief or engineer for a local volunteer fire department. The judge indicates that these positions would not involve the judge in fund-raising or other fiscal matters and are not included in the definition of peace officer as set forth in section 2.10 of the Criminal Procedure Law.

         Section 100.4 (A) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provides:


         (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 judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge;

                   (2)     detract from the dignity of judicial office;

                   (3)     interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not incompatible with judicial office.

         This Committee has previously advised that serving as chief of a volunteer fire department [Opinion 98-54 (Vol. XVI)], as a fire department police officer [Opinion 88-114 (Vol. III)], as treasurer of a fire district [Opinion 90-50 (Vol. V); Opinion 95-102 (Vol. XIII)] and as a director of a volunteer fire department [Opinion 89-147 (Vol. IV)] does not violate the proscriptions of section 100.4(A). It is the Committee’s view, therefore, that the judge in the present inquiry also may serve in any of the named positions as long as none confers peace officer status and none involves investigative responsibilities. The judge must, however, exercise recusal in any case arising from a fire in which the judge was involved [Opinion 90-61 (Vol. V); Opinion 95-06 (Vol. XIII)], or in any case involving the volunteer fire department [Opinion 88-114 (Vol. III); Opinion 89-147 (Vol. IV)].