Opinion 23-119


October 26, 2023


Digest:  On these facts, a judge may not facilitate the District Attorney’s driver diversion program by providing the DA’s office with copies of defendants’ accusatory instruments in Vehicle and Traffic Law matters. 


Rules:   UJCA § 2019-a; 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.2(C); 100.3(B)(7); 100.3(C)(1); Opinions 09-94; 09-38; 08-11; 07-115. 




          The inquiring town justice states that the District Attorney routinely asks the court for copies of defendants’ simplified traffic informations to “help facilitate [the DA’s] driver diversion program,” and asks if it is mandatory to do so.  The judge notes that the program directions instruct participating defendants to upload their own traffic ticket and driver’s abstract. 


          A judge must uphold the judiciary’s integrity and independence (see 22 NYCRR 100.1), must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2), and must always act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary’s impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]).  Therefore, a judge must not convey or allow others to covey that such others are in a special position to influence the judge (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).  In addition, a judge must dispose of all judicial matters promptly, efficiently and fairly (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[B][7]) and diligently discharge the judge’s administrative responsibilities without bias or prejudice (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[C][1]).


          We have consistently advised that compiling and providing information about court cases specifically and exclusively for the benefit of any particular party, person or entity, including the prosecutor’s office, is inconsistent with a judge’s responsibilities to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary and to avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see e.g. Opinions 07-115; 09-38).  Thus, we have said a court may not annotate the DA’s list of cases to indicate the status of each case for the DA’s convenience (see Opinion 09-94) nor provide the DA with an annotated court calendar in advance of court night indicating a defendant’s prior driving record (see Opinion 09-38).  Likewise, a judge may not adopt a procedure the DA developed to facilitate defendants’ pleas to lesser charges in Vehicle and Traffic Law matters that would eliminate the need for the DA’s office to appear in the judge’s court (see Opinion 08-11); may not provide the DA with a monthly list of all open cases pending in the justice court (see Opinion 07-115); and may not furnish a court calendar to the prosecution one week in advance, so that the ADA can prepare for court (see id.).


          Here, providing the DA with a copy of the simplified traffic information filed against each defendant motorist in order to facilitate the DA’s driver diversion program likewise risks compromising the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.  Accordingly, the judge must decline to do so.


          We note that court records and dockets, including those of town and village justice courts, are open to reasonable public inspection (see e.g. UJCA § 2019-a).  The inquiring judge may suggest that the DA’s staff can obtain the information requested by visiting the courthouse during regular court hours to review the court’s records and obtain the requested information.