December 9, 1993
Digest: A judge may not issue a public service announcement in support of local Catholic schools, encouraging listeners to invest in the future of their children by placing them in Catholic schools in the county where the judge resides.
Rules: 22 NYCRR §100.2(c) and 100.5(b)(2)
A city court judge asks whether it is permissible for the judge to issue a public service announcement to the general public, as one segment of a public service program stressing “What is Right” in the judge’s city, discussing the qualities of Catholic education and encouraging listeners to visit and utilize Catholic parochial schools in the area. The judge would be identified by name and title.
Although, as the Committee previously has noted in Opinions 91-99, Vol. VIII and 92-116, Vol.X, a judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon the judge’s impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties, a judge also is bound by the strictures of sections 100.2(c) and 100.5(b)(2) of the Rules of Judicial Conduct (22 NYCRR 100.2[c], 100.5[b]).
Section 100.2(c) of the Rules provides that “no judge shall lend the prestige of his or her office to advance the private interest of others.” Were a judge to issue a public statement that indicates that the judge has achieved the position of prominence he or she now holds in the community in part because of the excellence of parochial education, and to advise citizens to consider utilizing this community resource, the above-stated rule would be contravened.
Since the proposed text of the judge’s announcement also may involve by implication the relative merits of public and parochial education, the subject matter also may be inappropriately controversial for a proper public announcement by a judge.