Judicial Ethics Opinion 12-141
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: This responds to your inquiry asking whether it is ethically permissible for a judge to display on the judge's vehicle a license plate that is issued by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and that indicates the vehicle registrant is a judge.
Opinion: A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2), and must always act to promote the public's confidence in the judiciary's integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). Therefore, a judge must not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the judge's private interests (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).
The committee previously has advised that there is no ethical prohibition against a judge displaying a license plate on the judge's car that identifies the judge as a member of a judge's association (see Opinion 07-213). Similarly, the committee now concludes that otherwise lawful display of a license plate duly issued by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles is not rendered ethically impermissible merely because the license plate indicates that the vehicle registrant is a judge.