January 27, 2022
Digest: A part-time judge may not maintain concurrent civilian employment as a dispatcher with the State University of New York police in the same county where the judge presides.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.4(A)(1)-(3); 100.6(B)(4); Opinions 15-158; 08-187; 05-73; 98-116; 95-106.
A town justice asks if it is permissible to maintain employment in a civilian capacity as a communications and security specialist with the State University of New York police. The basic functions of the job are to:
Provide communications, security, and public safety services within a 24/7 operation in the University Police Departments at the campuses of the State University of New York (SUNY). Their primary responsibility is to function as the initial point of contact between the police and the public, performing dispatching activities, and using various databases, online systems, and multiple video sources. The positions are classified only at SUNY campuses and are subject to the Security Guard Act of 1993.
The campus is in the same county as the judge’s court, but the jurisdictions are not adjacent. The judge states that the rare cases arising on campus that become criminal matters could only come before the judge in the context of the judge’s Centralized Arraignment Part (CAP) responsibilities, which he/she undertakes once a month. The communications and security specialist position does not confer or require police or peace officer status, but the employee is represented by the New York State Corrections Officers and Police Benevolent Association unions.
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]-). While a part-time judge may accept employment in the public or private sector, such employment must not be incompatible with judicial office and may not conflict or interfere with the proper performance of the judge’s duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.6[B]).
We have said that a judge should not engage in employment as a dispatcher for a county sheriff’s department in the county in which the judge’s court is located (see Opinion 98-116) or as a 911 dispatcher in the same county (see Opinion 95-106). As we explained, through such employment, “the judge will clearly be involved with police work on a local basis” (id.). Conversely, we said a judge may serve as a 911 dispatcher/operator in a neighboring county (see Opinion 08-187).
While the inquiry before us does not describe significant contact between the SUNY police and the local police in the inquiring judge’s jurisdiction, we cannot assume that such contact will remain sparse in the future. Additionally, other SUNY campus dispatchers may well have more contact and communication with local police agencies than the specific campus at which the inquirer is employed.
Thus, we conclude that the inquirer may not maintain concurrent civilian employment as a dispatcher with the SUNY police in the same county where the judge presides. We do note that the judge may serve as a campus security officer, provided such duties are strictly internal (see Opinions 15-158; 05-73).