February 1, 2006
This is in response to your inquiry (06-11) in which you seek the Advisory Committee’s advice concerning an invitation from the District Attorney of the county where you sit inviting you “and your colleagues in the Criminal Term of the Supreme Court and the Criminal Court, for lunch” at the District Attorney’s office in the courthouse. Reference is made to the start of the New Year.
The Committee is of the view that acceptance of the invitation and a “free lunch,” does not violate the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. That is, the fact that all judges with criminal jurisdiction have been invited does not lead reasonably to the conclusion the independence of the judiciary has been compromised or in any way signifies an attending judge’s lack of impartiality in criminal cases.
However, some cautionary advice is in order. For example, you should not engage in any discussion concerning any pending or impending cases. Such discussion would violate the rules prohibiting public comment in such matters and ex parte communications. See, 22 NYCRR 100.3(B)(6), (8). Nor should you give any indication of a disposition to decide particular matters that might come before the court, in a certain way. Further, discussion of policies or assignments and the like, at such an event would not be advisable. In short, nothing should be allowed to occur which would in any way erode “public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” 22 NYCRR 100.2(A).