May 1, 2012
This responds to your inquiry (12-70) asking whether it is ethically permissible for a sitting town or village justice to serve on a local criminal justice council whose mission is to “engage in a collaborative process of information sharing to maximize resources resulting in an enhanced criminal justice process.” Several of the council’s goals are to intervene for at risk youth and adults, address victims’ needs and reduce recidivism.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct permit a judge to serve on or be a member of “an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice” (22 NYCRR 100.4[C]), subject to certain restrictions and limitations. These restrictions and limitations include those activities that “cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially” (22 NYCRR 100.4[A]); “interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties” (22 NYCRR 100.4[A]); or involve the judge in the “solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities” (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][i], [iv]). In addition, a judge may not engage in prohibited political activity (see 22 NYCRR 100.5). Moreover, to avoid any appearance of impropriety, the council should consist of members representing all aspects of the criminal justice system including, but not limited to, the interests of the victims of a crime and those charged with a crime.
Based on your inquiry, it does not appear that the organization will appear in court on behalf of any parties or act as an advocacy group on behalf of any one involved in the criminal justice system. Therefore, subject to the above limitations, it is permissible for a sitting justice to serve on this council.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 06-72; 03-45 and 99-111 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)