Opinion: 97-64

September 11, 1997

Digest:  (1) A part-time village justice may serve as president of a local United Way organization, (2) A part-time lawyer-judge may write for the judge's law firm's quarterly publication sent to the firm's clients and friends provided that (a) there is no reference to the judge's title or position and (b) the judge makes no comment on any pending or impending case in any court of the United States or its territories, or that would in any way cast doubt on the judge's impartiality.

Rules:  22 NYCRR 100.2(C); 100.3(B)(8);
            100.4(A)(1); 100.4(C)(3);
            Opinion 88-42 (Vol. II).


            A newly-appointed part-time Acting Village Justice inquires as to the propriety of the justice's acting as president of a local United Way Organization which is a charitable non-profit organization. Also, the judge inquires as to the propriety of writing "a newspaper column which details general legal advise in response to questions submitted to the paper."

            Section 100.4(C)(3) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct states that "a judge may be a member or serve as an officer ... of an educational, religious, charitable, cultural, fraternal or civic organization not conducted for profit, subject to [specified] limitations ...". The specified limitations include those related to fund-raising. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b). The judge may therefore serve as president of the local United Way Organization subject to these limitations. See, Opinion 88-42 (Vol. II).

            As to the "newspaper column," it appears that such a characterization is inaccurate. Copies submitted to the Committee by the judge reveal that the publication is not a newspaper at all, as that term is generally understood, but is a quarterly publication of the judge's law firm, entitled Legal Advisory, and, as stated therein, "is published for our clients, friends and professional associates, [and] is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information with respect to the subject covered."

            Assuming that the publication is a permissible form of self-promotion, the Committee sees no ethical impediment to the judge continuing to contribute articles, provided that certain cautions are kept in mind. First, the publication may not use the judge's judicial title, nor may there be any reference to the judge's judicial position. Failure to adhere to this stricture would constitute a lending of "the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge" and his firm, in violation of section 100.2(C) of the Rules. Second, the judge must not "comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court within the United State or its territories" (22 NYCRR 100.3(B)[8]), or, provide commentary that might "cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge." 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1). Subject to these caveats, the judge may continue to write a column.