March 9, 2006
Digest: A judge may publish a book about the small community where the judge resides, that will include the judge’s views about how the municipality can re-establish itself as stable, integrated and prosperous, but should not include any controversial discussion about the enforcement of municipal codes or quality of life offenses.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.3(B)(8); 100.4(A),(B); Opinions 05-70; 04-115; 99-145 (Vol. XVIII).
A judge has authored a book about the small community where the judge resides. The book includes a brief history of the judge’s municipality and the judge’s view about how it can re-establish itself as stable, integrated and prosperous. The latter topic will include the judge’s reasons why enforcement of certain types of violations of law, such as property maintenance code violations and quality of life offenses, is important. The judge asks if it is ethically permissible to publish this book.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct permit judges to engage in extra-judicial activities, including writing, provided that those activities 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. 22 NYCRR 100.4(A), (B).
This Committee has previously concluded that a judge may write on a variety of topics, including an article co-authored with an attorney addressing a particular area of legal practice (Opinion 04-115); a law review article addressing the powers of the office of Governor of the State of New York (Opinion 05-70); and works of fiction (Opinion 99-145 (Vol. XVIII)). The Committee has cautioned, however, that in doing so, a judge must avoid commenting on pending or impending cases, must ensure that he/she does not indicate any predisposition about how he/she would decide any particular case or class of cases, and must protect the integrity and dignity of judicial office. 22 NYCRR 100.3(B)(8); 100.4(A), (B).
Therefore, the inquiring judge may publish his/her book, but should avoid any controversial discussion about the enforcement of municipal codes or quality of life offenses, inasmuch as the judge presides over such offenses in his/her court.