May 4, 2017
This responds to your inquiry (17-35) asking whether you may speak to an audience of animal control officers about court procedures in dangerous-dog and unlicensed-dog cases.
The Committee has repeatedly advised judges that they may lecture and teach on matters relating to the law and the administration of justice. The fact that an intended audience only represents one category of litigants does not, alone, render a speaking engagement ethically impermissible. However, when an audience is not general or balanced, a judge must take particular care that the topic and remarks will not compromise the judge’s apparent or actual impartiality and do not manifest a predisposition to deciding cases in a certain way. A “judge should exercise caution … to insure that … he or she is not perceived as giving what amounts to partisan advice on questions of strategy or tactics as to how [law enforcement officers] are best likely to succeed. [H]e or she [may] not comment on any pending or impending proceedings” (Opinion 06-77).
Accordingly, it is permissible to speak to animal control officers about court procedures in dangerous-dog and unlicensed-dog cases “in such a manner as to promote public confidence in the judiciary’s impartiality and integrity” (Opinion 16-115).
Enclosed for your convenience are Opinions 16-115; 13-140; 13-123; 13-116 and 06-77, which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Div., First Dep’t (Ret.)
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Family Court Judge
Acting Justice, Supreme Court