January 30, 2020
Digest: A part-time judge may organize a non-fund-raising sports race and promote it to members of the local sporting community, even though participants will pay a modest fee to cover event costs. The judge may personally apply for routine permits and approvals and be listed as race director, provided he/she does not reference his/her judicial status in any way in making such application and requests.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.3(A); 100.4(A)(1)-(3); Opinions 14-193; 12-23; 88-162; 88-28.
A part-time judge asks if he/she may organize a community sports race. The race will not be a fund-raiser but the judge would charge a modest fee to cover event costs. If permitted, the judge would promote the event to the local sporting community, and personally apply for the permit to hold the event. As required by the permit application, the judge would need to obtain a local law enforcement statement of non-objection and approval from the NYS Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. In addition, the judge would personally request a safety/security patrol from the sheriff’s office and be listed as race director.
A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always act to promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). Because a judge’s judicial duties take precedence over all the judge’s other activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[A]), any extra-judicial activities must not be incompatible with judicial office (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A]). Indeed, a judge’s extra-judicial activities must not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge, detract from the dignity of judicial office, or interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A]-).
We have previously said a judge may organize and promote a social/sporting community event, provided it is not a fund-raiser (see Opinion 12-23 [judge may organize a non-fund-raising social golf outing for the local legal community and their friends]). Here, we likewise conclude the judge may organize a non-fund-raising sports race and promote the event to members of the local sporting community (see id.). That a modest fee will be charged to attendees does not alter our conclusion where the event is not a fund-raiser and such fee will merely cover the event costs (see id.; see also Opinion 14-193).
We have also said that a part-time judge who is an officer of a not-for-profit organization may sign the organization’s liquor license application (see Opinions 88-162; 88-28). On these facts, we believe the inquiring part-time judge may likewise personally apply for the routine permits and approvals necessary to hold the sports race he/she is organizing. Thus, the judge may apply for the permit, request a security patrol from the sheriff’s office, and be listed as race director, provided he/she does not use his/her official title or judicial stationery in making such applications and requests.