Opinion 96-96

September 5, 1996


Digest:         A judge may not serve as board member of a victim services agency.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.4 (A)(1); 100.4 (C)(3)(a)(i); Opinions 93-121(Vol. XI), 88-150 (Vol. III), 88-145 (Vol. III).



         A judge has inquired whether he/she may serve as a member of an advisory committee to a victim services agency which deals specifically with victims of domestic violence. The agency’s stated goals are to provide services to such victims and to provide education.

         Section 100.4 of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct states: “A JUDGE SHALL SO CONDUCT THE JUDGE’S EXTRA-JUDICIAL ACTIVITIES AS TO MINIMIZE THE RISK OF CONFLICT WITH JUDICIAL OBLIGATIONS. (A) Extra-judicial activities in general. A judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra-judicial activities so that they do not: (1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge;”

         Section 100.4 (C)(3)(a)(i) of the Rules states that: “A judge shall not serve as an officer, director, trustee or non- egal advisor [of an organization] if it is likely that the organization will be engaged in proceedings that ordinarily would come before the judge . . .”

         The inquiring judge issues orders of protection and handles arraignments and misdemeanor trials which concern allegations and charges of domestic violence.

         Although the agency’s counselors have not yet appeared before the Town Court, they have been called as witnesses in Family Court proceedings. In addition, the District Attorney has recently begun a program which requires any person wishing to withdraw charges against a domestic partner to receive counseling from the agency prior to withdrawal.

         In the view of the Committee, the relationship between the prosecutor and the organization is such that doubt might reasonably be cast on the impartiality of a judge who serves the agency in an advisory capacity. In addition, the organization, by encouraging victims to continue prosecutions could be deemed to be “engaged in proceedings” which would come before the judge’s court.

         Based upon the relationship of the organization to the prosecuting agency and the reasonable possibility that the judge’s impartiality might be called into question, it is the Committee’s Opinion that the judge should decline membership on the advisory committee.

         See Opinions 88-145 (Vol. III); 88-150 (Vol. III); 93-121 (Vol. XI).