Opinion: 99-31

March 11, 1999

Digest:  Under the circumstances presented, a judge should not serve as an active member of an organization working against violence that, among other things, seeks to promote "abuser accountability".

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1).


            A judge has been invited to become a member and actively participate in the "[Name] County Coalition Working Against Violence," formerly known as the "Child Sexual Abuse Task Force." The soliciting letter describes the purpose of the organization as follows:

Our purpose is to improve the cooperation and coordination among all the participants in the system. We will examine ways in which agencies respond to violence and work to improve that response, encourage and promote education regarding violence and abuse in our society, and to promote victim safety and abuser accountability.

            The judge asks as to the advisability of participating in the work of this organization.

            The Committee notes that no information is given as to the composition of the organization, i.e., whether, for example, it includes representatives of the District Attorney's office, the Public Defender's office, etc.; nor is there any elaboration as to what is meant by promoting "abuser accountability." Without some further explanation, an active aligning of oneself with an organization intending to promote "abuser accountability" might be perceived as casting "reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge," in violation of section 100.4(A)(1) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. Accordingly, the Committee is of the view that, under the circumstances presented, the judge should not participate as an active member of the group.