The Committee on Judicial Ethics responds to written inquiries from New York state's approximately 3,400 judges, who serve both full- and part-time. The committee's opinions interpret the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct (22NYCRR, Part 100) and the Code of Judicial Conduct. The committee, comprised of 26 current and retired judges and headed by former Justice George D. Marlow, also answers inquiries about proper campaign conduct from candidates for elective judicial office. The New York Law Journal publishes selected recent opinions of the committee.
Digest: A judge asks whether he or she may continue as chairperson of a committee of a not-for-profit organization which is dedicated to providing safe drinking water. The committee is charged with taking positions on legislative and regulatory bills, rules and actions that affect public water supplies. As chairperson, the judge would contact and meet with government officials and their staff in addition to sending letters requesting support, opposition, or no action on specific issues.
Opinion: Pursuant to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, a judge may be a member "of an educational, religious, charitable, cultural, fraternal or civic organization not conducted for profit" (22 NYCRR 100.4[C]) subject to certain restrictions and limitations. These restrictions and limitations include those activities that "cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge" or "interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are…incompatible with judicial office" (22 NYCRR 100.4[A], ). Since the judge would be taking an advocacy position on a subject matter that is potentially controversial, serving as chair of the committee is incompatible with judicial office and, therefore, ethically prohibited.