Opinion 99-104

September 14, 1999

Please Note: This opinion has been modified, in part, by Opinion 21-26, which states that “a town justice may appear at monthly town board meetings on behalf of the town court if (a) the judge concludes it is in the best interest of the court to attend and (b) the judge is satisfied the agenda reflects the town court’s status as a co-equal branch of government, rather than a department subject to the town board’s direction and control.” However, the Committee also expressly reaffirmed that a “judge must not acquiesce in an attempt by town officials ‘to compel attendance’ by the judge or court personnel, ‘as if the court were part of the executive branch.’”  Id


Digest:         A village justice should not attend monthly meetings of the village government's department heads which are presided over by the Mayor.


Rule:            22 NYCRR 100.1 and 100.2(A)


         The Mayor of a village has requested that the village justice represent the Village Court at the village's monthly "department heads' meeting. " The justice inquires whether it would be proper to attend and participate at these monthly meetings which are presided over by the Mayor.

         The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct require a judge to preserve the independence of the judiciary. 22 NYCRR 100.1. The judge's attendance at the monthly meetings would, in effect, erroneously identify the judge as a member of the executive branch of the local government serving under the direction of the Mayor. Such a role would not only jeopardize the independence of the judiciary but would also give rise to an appearance of impropriety, contrary to the Rules. 22 NYCRR 100.1, 100.2(A). In our opinion, the judge should not attend monthly village meetings with the village department heads.