December 6, 2021
This responds to your inquiry (21-135) asking if it is ethically permissible for you to conduct off-hour arraignments at a county jail, pursuant to a proposed county-wide change in arraignment procedures. Specifically, you have asked if doing so would undermine the appearance of judicial independence, contrary to Section 100.1, and/or violate the Judiciary Law.
We have previously advised that it is ethically permissible for a judge to conduct arraignments off-hours at a publicly accessible area of the jail where the defendants are already incarcerated and the arrangement will facilitate compliance with constitutional mandates (Opinion 17-104). We have also advised that a judge may arraign prison inmates in a courtroom open to the public within a maximum security prison, provided there are valid security reasons for doing so and that conducting arraignments at the prison does not violate the law (Opinion 98-150).
Accordingly, we see no ethical impropriety in conducting off-hours arraignments in a publicly accessible area of the county jail, assuming the location comports with legal requirements.
Enclosed for your convenience are Opinions 17-104; 98-150 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
Margaret T. Walsh
Supreme Court Justice
Acting Supreme Court Justice