June 14, 2012
Digest: A judge charged with violating the vehicle and traffic law may negotiate with the prosecutor for reduction or dismissal of the charged violation, either pro se or through an attorney but must not use or invoke his/her judicial title/status in the negotiations.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(A); 100.2(C); Opinions 12-41; 11-10; 10-197; 10-07; 09-12; 08-223; 08-19; 07-193; 07-104; 99-115 (Vol. XVIII); 93-05 (Vol. X); 90-11 (Vol. V); 88-155 (Vol. III).
A part-time judge who has been charged with a violation of the vehicle and traffic law asks whether he/she may, either personally or through an attorney, negotiate with the prosecutor for “a reduction or dismissal of [the] traffic ticket.”
A judge must always promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]) and must not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance his/her private interests (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]). However, the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not preclude a judge from exercising the same rights as any other citizen when appearing as a litigant. For example, the Committee has advised that a judge may commence an action in a court of competent jurisdiction, whether proceeding pro se or through counsel (see Opinions 12-41; 09-12; 93-05 [Vol. X]; 90-11 [Vol. V]). Similarly, the Committee has advised that, when a judge is called as a witness or has been the victim of a crime, the judge generally has the same rights, duties, and obligations as other witnesses or other crime victims (see Opinions 11-10; 10-07; 08-223; 08-19; 07-193; 07-104; 99-115 [Vol. XVIII]; 88-155 [Vol. III]).
Therefore, the inquiring judge may exercise the same rights as other defendants charged with violations of the vehicle and traffic law, which include negotiating with the prosecutor for reduction or dismissal of the charge. The judge may conduct such negotiations either pro se or through an attorney, but must not use or invoke his/her judicial title or status in the negotiations (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]; cf. Opinion 10-197 [a judge may speak as a private citizen about natural gas drilling as it affects him/her personally, but should not refer to his/her judicial status]).