Opinion 17-125

September 7, 2017


Digest:         A part-time village justice may hold full-time employment as a training director with a city’s independent emergency communications department, where he/she oversees training of an all-civilian staff and does not supervise dispatchers or perform dispatch duties.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.4(A)(1)-(3); 100.4(C)(2)(b); 100.6(B)(4); Opinions 17-42; 16-32; 08-145; 03-118; 98-116; 95-106; 91-149.


         A part-time village justice asks if he/she may maintain full-time employment as the training director for a city emergency communications department. This independent city department provides 911 services; emergency call taking; and police, fire and emergency medical dispatch services throughout the county where the justice presides. The training director oversees training of the all-civilian staff, and schedules, coordinates and prepares training for all department personnel in a training facility separated from the central dispatch operations floor. The part-time village justice would thus oversee training of the all-civilian dispatch and emergency services staff and would not be responsible for front-line dispatcher or front-line supervisory duties. The judge notes there “are no sworn positions” in the training department, and the department is not “overseen by any sworn member of any law enforcement agency.”

A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2). In general, a judge may engage in extra-judicial activities that 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 (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A][1]-[3]). Moreover, a part-time judge “may accept public employment in a federal, state or municipal department or agency, provided that such employment is not incompatible with judicial office and does not conflict or interfere with the proper performance of the judge’s duties” (22 NYCRR 100.6[B][4]).

We have advised that a part-time village justice may not serve as a 911 dispatcher (see Opinions 98-116; 95-106) or as in-house counsel for the county sheriff (see Opinion 16-32) in the same county in which the judge presides as part-time judge. A judge’s outside employment must not involve, or appear to involve, peace officer or quasi-law enforcement responsibilities (see Opinion 16-32; 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][2][b]). Judges also must not serve as police officers or in positions so closely related to ongoing police activity as to create a public perception of partiality toward law enforcement (see Opinions 16-32; 95-106; 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][2][b]).

In contrast, a part-time town or village justice may maintain employment in an administrative role as an academic employee that administers and oversees a SUNY-hosted police cadet academy (see Opinion 17-42), as a public safety advocate in the sheriff’s department which has no connection to the local police division (see Opinion 08-145), as a behind-the-scenes data entry clerk in a county sheriff’s office (see Opinion 03-118), or as a civilian employee in the state police (see Opinion 91-149). In each instance, the judge must disqualify him/herself from all matters involving his/her employer, and must choose between the two positions if disqualification is “too frequent” (Opinions 08-145; 03-118; 91-149).

Here, we conclude that the judge may be employed as the training director of the city’s emergency communications department. As described, the part-time village justice will be employed full-time by an independent city agency, not a law enforcement agency, and will be exclusively engaged in administrative duties. The judge will not supervise dispatchers or perform any direct dispatcher duties, and the training facility is not within the central dispatch operations floor. As described, we conclude this employment is not incompatible with part-time judicial office and is not likely to compromise the judge’s apparent or actual impartiality. The proposed employment is therefore permissible.