June 30, 2022
Digest: A part-time judge may engage in consulting services to deliver in-person classroom training on workplace violence prevention and other personal safety strategies, outside the county in which the judge presides, to civilian government and non-profit attendees, provided that the judge’s judicial title or status is not used or mentioned in any marketing efforts.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.2(C); 100.3(B)(6); 100.4(D)(1)(a); 100.6(B)(4); Opinions 22-01; 17-136; 16-117; 10-163; 06-66.
A part-time judge asks if they may “privately engage in consulting services to deliver in-person classroom training on workplace violence prevention and other personal safety strategies” within the state of New York, but outside the county where the judge presides. The judge’s clients would be “local government and non-profit attendees (all non law enforcement).” The judge envisions “an on-site interactive full day training session” for agency staff.
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 part-time judge generally may engage in private employment that is not incompatible with judicial office and does not conflict or interfere with the proper performance of the judge’s duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.6[B]). A judge must not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance any private interests (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]) or engage in financial and business dealings that may reasonably be perceived to exploit the judge’s judicial position (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[D][a]).
Applying these principles, we have said that a part-time judge may offer training and consultation services to local city, town and village governments regarding appropriate responses to “1st and 2nd amendment audits” (Opinion 22-01 [explaining that such “audits” are “conducted by individuals who make videos of their encounters … with public officials”]). We have also said that a part-time judge may serve as a paid advisor for a municipality, other than the one where the judge presides, to study the feasibility of restructuring the local court system (see Opinion 17-136) and may serve as a consultant and assist officials in another county with the establishment of a village court (see Opinion 10-163 [noting that the judge owned a small consulting company]). Here, too, we see no inherent impropriety in offering training and/or consulting services concerning workplace violence prevention and other personal safety strategies to governmental entities and not-for-profit organizations.
We previously advised that a part-time judge who is the Chief Executive Officer of a substantial manufacturing business owned by the judge’s family may permit the family business to market its products to the Unified Court System, but only outside the jurisdiction in which the judge sits (see Opinion 06-66). We explained that “the potential for a conflict of interest is too great to allow the judge to permit the company to transact business with the town where he/she presides as a judge” (id.).1 Here, the judge’s decision to offer these training and consulting services only outside the county in which the judge presides will likewise help minimize the risk of actual or apparent conflicts (see Opinion 22-01 [finding no conflict where “the proposed training and consultations will be performed outside of the county in which you preside, do not include law enforcement or prosecutorial functions, and are not likely to involve persons or agencies that regularly appear before you”]; 22 NYCRR 100.4[D][a]).
Of course, to avoid any inference that the judge is inappropriately exploiting their judicial office, there should be no mention of the judge’s title or position in connection with any marketing efforts (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]; see also Opinion 06-66]).
Finally, should the proposed training sessions be attended by a litigant or attorney who has appeared before the judge in a pending matter, the judge “must make every reasonable effort to minimize contacts with [such persons] and specifically discourage any conversation about pending cases” (Opinion 16-117, citing 22 NYCRR 100.3[B] [ex parte communication rule]).
Accordingly, we conclude this part-time judge may engage in private consulting services to deliver in-person classroom training on workplace violence prevention and other personal safety strategies to non-law enforcement (i.e. civilian) government and non-profit attendees outside the county where the judge presides, provided that the judge’s judicial title or status are not used or mentioned in any marketing efforts.
1 Of particular note, we distinguished between “discrete or limited” employment with the judge’s municipality and a “continuing business relationship” that extends “beyond a single, finite transaction” (Opinion 06-66).