Opinion: 99-100

September 14, 1999

Digest: A full-time City Court judge should not appoint members to a municipal Advisory Committee on Reapportionment that is formulating a plan for the reapportionment of city government.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.4(C)(2)(a);
          Opinion 93-16 (Vol. X).


            A full-time Chief Judge of a City Court has been asked by the chair of the City Charter Revision Commission to appoint three of nine members to the Advisory Committee on Reapportionment. Three members of the Committee are to be appointed by the judge, three others by the mayor, with the remaining three members to be appointed by the City Council. The purpose of the Advisory Committee is to recommend a plan for adoption by the City Council concerning the composition of the city's government based upon the current population and specific needs of the city. Appointments are for a term of ten years.

            The judge acknowledges that the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct appear to prohibit the judge's service on such a committee, as it clearly is concerned with issues of fact or policy in matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(2)(a); Opinion 93-16 (Vol. X). But does this mean that the judge should not appoint members of the Committee?

            In our opinion it does mean that. For the judge to accept this obligation is to act as an agent of the Charter Revision Commission, which, in and of itself, is not an organization on which the judge may serve. Opinion 93-16 (Vol. X). Presumably, the Charter Revision Commission seeks an independent, non-political source, for one-third of the membership of the Advisory Committee. However, in our opinion, for the judiciary to become involved would effectively impair judicial independence in that it would enmesh the judiciary in what is essentially a political undertaking. 22 NYCRR 100.1. Reapportionment matters are understandably matters of substantial public interest and controversy and bear on fundamental political concerns. Political disputes are inherent in the process and frequently eventuate in litigation. The judiciary should not be involved in this process. Accordingly, the judge should decline the invitation to appoint members to the Advisory Committee on Reapportionment.