August 27, 2004
Digest: Under the circumstances described it is not unethical for the judge to hold arraignments at night at a location other than the courthouse.
Rules: Judiciary Law §§ 10, 13; People v. Pisano, 142 A.D.524 (2d Dept. 1911); 22NYCRR 100.2; Opinion 96-100 (Vol. XIV).
A City Court Judge inquires as to propriety of holding arraignments away from the courthouse under the following circumstances.
During the summer months a local performing arts center located in a public park accommodates large rock type concerts attended by from 10,000 to 30,000 patrons and which usually generate arrests for various degrees of rowdiness or violence. Most arrests are disposed of with appearance tickets. The more serious are retained by the park police at their on-site police office. The arrests generally occur in the late evening or early morning.
Since the court facility, located in the City Hall some miles away, is closed at night, arraignments must await the next day. The judge states that the police office has no adequate detention facility and prisoners are held handcuffed in a large room until court opens the following day. The court at the City Hall cannot be used at night since no personnel are available for maintaining security.
The judge is willing to hold night arraignments so that release conditions can be set, if appropriate. Such proceedings would be held in a room which is part of the park police facility but separated from it by a courtyard. The room would be set up as a court and will be open to the public. Further, the public building which houses the park police facility also contains the local Judicial District Office of the Office of Court Administration. The judge further advises that the park police are neither by training or experience as able as regular police in securing, handling, transporting and otherwise tending to prisoners when held over night. This inquiry to the Committee is at the suggestion of the District Administrative Judge who has approved the proposed procedure.
A judge of a court of record is not ordinarily permitted for the judge’s own convenience or for any other purpose to hold a term of court at any other place than the designated courthouse. Opinion 96-100 (Vol. XIV). See, also People v. Pisano, 142 A.D. 524 (2d Dept. 1911). However, Judiciary Law §10 provides for removal of a court to another location if “inexpedient” or “inconvenient,” and Judiciary Law §13 provides that if a courthouse outside New York City “. . . is for any cause . . . inconvenient . . . for holding court therein, the county judge of the county may, by an order filed in the Office of the Clerk of the County, appoint another building in the vicinity for temporarily holding courts. . . “
The circumstances presented, i.e., the inadequacy of detention facilities as well as attendant security issues appear to warrant the holding of these particular arraignments as proposed by the judge, and as approved by the Administrative Judge. We therefore conclude that holding of such arraignments would not be ethically improper. 22 NYCRR 100.2.