October 9, 2020
This responds to your inquiry (20-147) asking whether you may participate in an exploratory committee formed by the Public Defender and the District Attorney to consider the possible creation of a district court system in your county.1 Other committee members include the County Executive, the Director of Probation, the Sheriff, and a Legislator.
Absent specific factors creating the appearance of impropriety, it is ethically permissible for a judge to express an opinion on matters involving the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C], [a], and ). Accordingly, the Committee has previously advised that a part-time judge may publicly comment on the final report issued by a committee formed by the County Executive and chaired by the District Attorney addressing the feasibility of the creation of a District Court system in the county. Therefore, we similarly conclude that it is ethically permissible for you to serve on this balanced exploratory committee and provide input regarding the feasibility of a different court structure in your county.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 16-116; 97-02; 95-115 and 90-16 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice (Ret.)
Appellate Div. First Dep’t
Margaret T. Walsh Supreme Court Justice
1 While the inquirer has used the term “district court,” we note the same principles apply whether this group wishes to establish district courts under the New York State Constitution, art VI § 16 or another type of consolidated or regional court under other authority.