January 19, 1995
Digest: Whether a Supreme Court justice may accept an appointment to the College Council of a college of the State University of New York presents a question of state constitutional law which the Advisory Committee declines to answer.
Rule: Article 6, section 20(b)(i) New York State Constitution
A Supreme Court justice has been asked to accept a gubernational appointment to the College Council of the State University of New York at one of its four-year colleges. (The judge has previously served on the Council.) The judge points out that, although in 1989 the Committee, in responding to an inquiry from the Counsel to the Governor, expressed the view that appointment to the Board of Trustees of a community college of the state university system should not be accepted, the position of membership in College Council is distinguishable from membership on the Board of Trustees. The authority and functions of the Council are extremely limited and it is without policy making or executive power.
At issue is Article 6, section 20(b)(1) of the New York State Constitution which states that a justice of the Supreme Court may not "hold any other public office or trust", except in certain specified situations not here applicable.
Thus, the question whether the position of membership on a College Council of a college of the State University of New York is a "public office or trust" is one of state constitutional law and as to which the Committee has no special expertise or jurisdiction. As a general practice the Committee does not answer questions of law. In 1989 the Committee did, as an exception and courtesy to the Governor, answer a related question (see also Opinion 94-104), but the general practice is not to answer such questions. However, as it may be that the Attorney General of New York has some special jurisdiction or relationship to this matter, the inquiring judge may wish to ask the Attorney General for an opinion. In any event, the Committee declines to answer the question.