September 10, 2020
Digest: A part-time judge may serve on the board of a not-for-profit emergency medical services organization, where the position is not subject to public election, does not involve any peace officer status or investigative roles, and is not likely to be seen as intertwined with law enforcement functions.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.4(A)(1)-(3); 100.4(C)(2)(a)-(b); 100.4(C)(3)(a)(i); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i); 100.5(B); Opinions 19-151; 19-38; 18-152; 18-76; 17-173; 15-20; 12-66.
A part-time town justice asks if it is permissible to serve on the board of a local not-for-profit emergency medical services (EMS) organization.1 The entity is completely independent of any fire department or fire district and serves emergency medical needs in rural areas. Board members are uncompensated and are not subject to public election. The position does not involve any peace officer status or investigative roles. The judge is a former paramedic with many years of experience in emergency medicine and emergency management.
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]). A judge may engage in extra-judicial activities if those activities are not incompatible with judicial office and do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s impartiality, detract from the dignity of judicial office, or interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A]-). A part-time judge generally may serve as an officer or director of a not-for-profit charitable or civic organization, if the entity is not likely to be engaged in proceedings that ordinarily would come before the judge (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][a][i]). Among other limitations, judges may not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities, although they may assist in planning fund-raising (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][i]). A judge may not accept appointment as a peace officer or police officer and may not seek public election to non-judicial office (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b]; 100.5[B]).
The propriety of a judge’s involvement with an emergency medical services advisory board is a fact-specific determination (see Opinion 18-152). We have said a part-time judge may serve in an appointive position on the county’s EMS advisory board where the board makes recommendations to the county legislature on how to improve emergency medical services within the county (see Opinion 19-151). Conversely, where the position is subject to public election or involves either peace office status or investigative responsibilities, it is not permissible (see Opinion 19-38; 18-76; 12-66). Similarly, a part-time judge may not supervise the EMS division in the sheriff’s office in the county where the judge presides, as it would create the perception that the judge is acting in a law enforcement role (see Opinion 17-173). If the duties of a position are “inextricably intertwined” with law enforcement functions, then the position is incompatible with judicial office (see Opinion 15-20).
We conclude a part-time judge may serve on the board of this not-for-profit EMS organization, as the position is not subject to public election, does not involve any peace officer status or investigative roles, and is not likely to be seen as intertwined with law enforcement functions.
1 As this EMS entity is apparently a private not-for-profit organization, we assume membership on its board is not a “a governmental committee or position” within the meaning of Section 100.4(C)(2)(a). Either way, however, part-time judges are not subject to that particular restriction (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][a]; Opinion 19-151).