September 10, 2020
Digest: A full-time judge may not accept appointment to a federal health agency’s advisory council focused on improving public health among minority populations.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.3(A); 100.4(A)(1)-(3); 100.4(C)(2)(a); Opinions 19-146; 06-137; 02-45.
A full-time judge inquires if he/she may accept appointment to and serve on an advisory council for a federal health agency. The initiative seeks to use scientific research to improve public health and to reduce health disparities for minority populations, including racial and ethnic minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged and geographically underserved populations.
A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). A judge’s judicial duties “take precedence over all the judge’s other activities” (22 NYCRR 100.3[A]). Accordingly, any extra-judicial activities must be compatible with judicial office and must not (1) cast doubt on his/her capacity to act impartially as a judge, (2) detract from the dignity of judicial office, or interfere with proper performance of judicial duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A]-). Of particular note here, a full-time judge “shall not accept appointment to a governmental committee or commission or other governmental position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy in matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice” (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][a]).
Applying Section 100.4(C)(2)(a), we said a full-time judge may not serve on an advisory committee to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concerning disability programs and services (see Opinion 19-146); on a county youth board’s advisory committee “to promote ‘healthy outcomes’ and ‘positive development’ in youth” (Opinion 06-137); or on a community services board of a municipal mental health department (see Opinion 02-45). In each instance, we concluded the initiative was primarily concerned with issues of fact and policy unrelated to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, and thus impermissible for a full-time judge (see Opinions 19-146; 06-137; 02-45; 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][a]).
Although laudable, the purpose of the federal initiative here is similarly unrelated to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. Therefore, a full-time judge may not serve on this advisory council.