January 5, 1990
The Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, at its meeting of December 5, 1989, considered your inquiry (89-143) dated November 20, 1989, concerning the propriety of a county judge serving as a member of a community services board under Mental Hygiene Law Sections 41.13 and 41.03(6). As judge, you refer cases to the Community Services Department, and consult with the Department about drug and alcohol abuse and sex offender situations.
Article 6, section 20(b) (1) of the New York State Constitution provides that certain judges, including county court judges and surrogates may not “hold any other public office or trust except an office in relation to the administration of the courts”. Section 100.5(g) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator provides that “no [full-time] judge shall accept an appointment to a governmental committee, commission or other position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice”.
In Opinion 89-109, this Committee found that a part-time judge’s serving as director of a private foundation that accepted substance abuse referrals from the court created an appearance of impropriety, and that the judge could not hold that position [section 100.5(b)].
Similarly, your referral of cases to the Community Services Department of which you are a board member creates an appearance of impropriety. In addition, section 100.5(g) prohibits the holding by a full-time judge of this position with the county community services board of a Department not concerned directly with issues of law and the legal system. Accordingly, you may not serve on the board of this Department.
Very truly yours,
Samuel J. Silverman