Opinion 17-102

September 11, 2017

Dear :

         This responds to your inquiry (17-102) asking whether you may concurrently serve as a part-time City Court judge and a full-time Executive Director of a not-for-profit center for social and criminal justice. The center, which advocates for criminal justice reform, is developing a residential mental health treatment facility as an alternative to incarceration for accused felony offenders with serious mental health issues. The center is located in a different geographic location than the city court.

         The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct permit a judge to be an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization not conducted for profit, subject to certain limitations (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3]). The Committee has previously advised that “the community benefits from having judges take an active part in community affairs wherever possible” (Opinion 90-25). However, a judge may not participate in civic activities which reflect adversely on the judiciary’s impartiality or interfere with the judge’s official duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2[A]; 100.4[A][1]-[3]). To that end, we earlier advised that “an appearance of impropriety would be created necessarily, if a [part-time] justice referred defendants to a clinic operated by a foundation that employed the justice as executive director” (Opinion 89-109). Thus, if your court has the power to refer defendants to the mental health facility, you would be unable to serve simultaneously as the center’s Executive Director and as a part-time justice.

         That the center and court are located in different jurisdictional districts does not warrant a different result as behavioral health treatment referrals from courts are routinely made across county and state lines.

         Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 17-103; 15-213; 15-201; 12-22; 09-99; 07-81; 07-19; and 89-109 which address these issues.


                                       Very truly yours,


                                       George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice

                                       Appellate Div., First Dep’t (Ret.)

                                       Committee Co-Chair

                                       Hon. Margaret T. Walsh

                                       Family Court Judge

                                       Acting Justice, Supreme Court

                                       Committee Co-Chair