Joint opinion 90-123 and 90-133
Digest: A judge may write newspaper articles on the law and the courts, if the judge abides by certain caveats.
Rules: 22 NYCRR §100.4(a) and 100.6.
Two judges (one full time and one part-time) ask whether there is any ethical prohibition or limitation in writing a column or article about the law and courtroom procedure (or times and places of holding court) for local newspapers or for a Town Hall newspaper.
Section 100.4 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator states that:
A judge, subject to the proper performance of his or her judicial duties, may engage in the following quasi-judicial activities, if in doing so the judge does not cause doubt on the capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before him:
(a) a judge may speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice.
Section 100.4 of the Rules permits a judge to write articles about the law for such newspapers, subject to the limitation, as stated in Opinion 80-106, dated September 19, 1988, that such extrajudicial activity “cannot take place at a time that would interfere with the judge's regular judicial duties.” Furthermore, the judge must be careful not to express opinions about pending cases in any court or to present topics that would indicate the judge has a predisposition with respect to deciding particular cases, which would cast doubt on the judge's impartiality. The articles should be consistent with the dignity of the judicial office, and the judges should indicate that they are not rendering legal advice on real specific cases to the general public.
Furthermore, one of the judges making inquiry indicates that the article would be written in question and answer form to make the law clearer. If the judge employs that format, which is permissible, the judge should indicate clearly in the article that the questions and answers, as well as the issues, parties and disposition, are fictitious, so as not to appear to be rendering legal advice on specific actual cases to members of the general public.