March 23, 2021
This responds to your inquiry (21-55) asking whether you may serve on a committee to investigate sexual harassment claims against an individual who is a member of the same worldwide not-for-profit service organization. As part of the investigation, the committee would make a recommendation as to whether this individual should resign from the organization.
The Committee has previously advised that the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibit a judge from serving on a not-for-profit entity’s committee to review and make recommendations concerning abuse allegations, as such service would reflect on the judge’s impartiality; undermine the judiciary’s integrity and independence; interfere with the judge’s official duties; or place the judge in an adversarial role. We believe this also applies to a committee convened to investigate and make recommendations concerning allegations of sexual harassment.
Even though the accused individual is in another county, your participation could be perceived as lending the prestige of judicial office to the findings of the committee in violation of 22 NYCRR 100.2(C). We believe that a “judge should not be cast in such a role, especially in light of the possibility of civil or criminal litigation” involving the subject of the investigation (Opinion 02-128).
Accordingly, you may not serve on this committee.
Enclosed, for your convenience is Opinion 02-128, which addresses this issue.
Very truly yours,
Margaret T. Walsh
Supreme Court Justice
Acting Supreme Court Justice