Opinion 22-136


October 27, 2022


Digest:     A part-time town justice may not simultaneously be employed part-time as a community school liaison with the county sheriff’s office.


Rules:       22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.6(B)(4); Opinions 21-173; 20-95; 16-32.




           A candidate for town justice inquires whether it is permissible to hold judicial office concurrently with their current part-time employment as a community school liaison for the local sheriff’s office. The community school liaison “coordinates a variety of school safety and support services.” For example, the position provides “school safety program coordination with school personnel, behavioral health clinicians, law enforcement and other first responders” and “facilitates and provides leadership for the collaborative process in the development and implementation of school emergency operation plans.” Typical work activities include, among many others, “[r]epresent[ing] the [sheriff’s office] at meetings with other stakeholder groups.” Although the community school liaison is a strictly civilian position which has “no peace or police officer authority” and plays no role in law enforcement investigations of school incidents, the required skill set nonetheless includes “making risk assessments” and the required qualifications include five years of “full time paid work experience in law enforcement.”1 Finally, the inquiry states that, “[a]though there is a town police department,” both the sheriff’s office and state police “also cover cases in the town.” Thus, it appears that the town court’s docket includes tickets issued by deputies from the county sheriff’s office.


           A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and act to promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). A part-time judge may accept public employment if compatible with judicial office, provided it does not conflict or interfere with proper performance of the judge’s duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.6[B][4]).


           When the non-judicial employment may appear to align the judge with law enforcement or defense functions, increased scrutiny is necessary (see Opinion 21-173 [town justice may not serve as confidential secretary to county sheriff, where the court’s calendar includes a substantial number of tickets issued by sheriff’s deputies]).


           At least two conditions must be met for a part-time judge to maintain employment with a law enforcement agency (see id.). First, the employment must not involve, or appear to involve, a peace officer or quasi-law enforcement role (id.). Second, the agency must not appear so frequently in the judge’s court as to interfere with the judge’s duties (id.).


           In addition, even where those two conditions are arguably met, the positions may still be ethically incompatible if the judge’s role “will be perceived as too closely aligned with law enforcement interests” (Opinions 20-95 [part time judge may not serve as business agent for a correction officers’ union]; 16-32 [part-time city court judge who presides over arraignments and other criminal cases should not serve as sheriff’s office part-time in-house counsel]). Of particular relevance, we explained that serving as business agent for a correction officers’ union was impermissible because it “involves representation of correction officers’ interests to management, the public, and/or unspecified third parties with whom the union does business” (Opinion 20-95).


           Here, although the community school liaison is a strictly civilian position, we note that several factors likewise create an appearance of alignment with law enforcement interests. For example, the position “[r]epresents” the sheriff’s office in meetings with other stakeholder groups. It also (as its name suggests) functions as the liaison between schools and “law enforcement and other first responders” with respect to school safety programs. Moreover, the minimum qualifications for the position include five years of paid, full-time work experience in law enforcement. In light of these factors, we conclude the role of community school liaison will be perceived as too closely aligned with law enforcement interests and is thus incompatible with judicial office.


           Accordingly, on these facts, we conclude the inquirer may not hold office as a town justice while continuing their part-time employment as a community school liaison with the county sheriff’s office.



1Qualifying experience includes former service as a police officer or sheriff; as a court officer; or as a parole, probation or corrections officer.