March 10, 1994
Digest: A judge may not comment publicly about a pending matter despite the false, misleading and inaccurate public statements being made by a litigant.
Rule: 22 NYCRR §100.3(a)(6).
A litigant, who has appeared before the Court over which the inquiring judge presides on numerous occasions in matters involving child custody and neglect has issued statements to the press and the general public which contain misleading, inaccurate and false charges concerning the proceedings had before the judge.
The judge is aware of 22 NYCRR §100.3(a)(6) which requires that “A judge shall abstain from public comment about a pending or impending matter in any court, and shall require similar abstention on the part of court personnel subject to his or her direction and control.” The judge is concerned, however, that because of the lack of a response the public may be left with the impression of an abusive, callous, uncaring judicial system. Thus, the judge asks whether a judge may “comment on a pending matter solely to correct misleading, inaccurate, and false information released by a litigant regarding a pending proceeding.”
It is the opinion of the Committee that the judge may not comment publicly on any of the pending matters, even if such public comment is intended solely to correct the false, inaccurate and misleading nature of the statements being made by the litigant.
Section 100.3(a)(6) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator is controlling and precludes public comments by the judge. Nonetheless, the judge may, if so inclined, seek the assistance of an appropriate bar association or judicial association committee for the purpose of public clarification of the situation.