June 7, 1990
Digest: Judges should not serve as the editorial board for the publishers of a law book, under circumstances that give the publication a misleading official imprimatur.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4 ; 100.5(c)(2).
Several judges have inquired whether they may accept a proposed contract to serve on an editorial board for the publishers of a law book and to be paid for this work. The law book would provide forms for jury instruction in three volumes. The sitting judges would constitute the entire editorial board, and their names would appear on the title page of each volume of the book. The contract requires the judges to write a preface indicating the need for and value of the book (§1(e) of proposed contract). The judges will receive royalties for the book and on all subsequent editions bearing their names (§8 of proposed contract).
While judges may participate in activities to improve the law and the legal system [22 NYCRR 100.4], it would be inappropriate for these judges to sign the proposed contract as written, and to serve on the editorial board under the terms of this contract. The major objections to the contract are that the entire editorial board consists of sitting judges, that the judges are required to write a preface endorsing the book, and that the judges will receive royalties for all updated and subsequent editions bearing their names. In addition, under proposed §14 of the contract, the work would continue to bear the judges’ names as the original editorial board, even though translations, revisions, additions or abridgments were made and, in fact, were neither screened nor passed upon by the named judges. This would add to the factors which combine to give the book a misleading official imprimatur and also create the appearance that the judges’ names are being used for commercial purposes.
Accordingly, these judges should not participate in the project under these contractual terms.