Opinion 24-47


March 14, 2024


Digest:  A county magistrates association may honor a county court judge and a sheriff’s department captain by presenting them with plaques and dinner certificates in recognition of their service to the association.


Rules:   22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2; 100.2(A)-(C); 100.4(A)(1)-(3); Opinions 23-98; 23-03; 20-132; 20-38; 15-198; 13-134; 03-20; 94-76; 91-08; 90-184.




          The inquiring town justice, an officer of a county magistrates association, asks if the association may honor a county court judge and a captain in the county sheriff’s office at an upcoming meeting.   The association would like to present each of them with a plaque and dinner certificate to recognize their support and assistance.  The county court judge regularly contributes their time to the association and “is truly dedicated to serving our organization and our community.”[1]  The captain voluntarily facilitates the association’s meetings outside of regular working hours and provides significant logistical support. 


          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 integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]).  A judge must not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[B]) and must not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance any private interests; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge (22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).  A judge’s extra-judicial activities must be compatible with judicial office and must not (1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge; (2) detract from the dignity of judicial office; or (3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties (22 NYCRR 100.4[A][1]-[3]).


          We note initially that we can see no possible appearance of impropriety in a judicial association choosing to honor a judge by presenting them with a plaque and a dinner certificate in recognition of their service to the association (cf. Opinion 20-132 [“[T]he public will readily perceive it as natural, fitting, and logical that judges might wish to contribute to a public monument in honor of a high-profile federal judge’s life and work.”]).


          We will therefore focus on the proposed recognition of the sheriff’s department captain, which appears to be a novel question.  Subject to certain limitations, we have recognized that a magistrates association may include law enforcement officers, prosecutors and defense counsel as non-voting members or guests at its meetings (see Opinions 23-03; 20-38; 91-08) and may hold its meetings at a sheriff’s office (see Opinion 15-198).  Moreover, although judges may not be members of law enforcement organizations, they may attend their social events (see Opinions 13-134; 94-76) and may even be honored if the event is not a fund-raiser (see Opinion 90-184).


          We have also advised that a judicial association may honor an elected official at a non-fund-raising event for their role in increasing diversity in the judiciary, provided the event is not political (see Opinion 23-98).  Similarly, an administrative judge may permit the courthouse to “be used for a ceremony and reception hosted by local bar associations for the purpose of honoring the new chairperson of a legislative judiciary committee” and may also “speak at the reception” (Opinion 03-20). 


          Accordingly, we conclude that a county magistrates association may honor a sheriff’s department captain by presenting a plaque and a dinner certificate in recognition of their service to the association.



[1] We understand from the inquirer that the county court judge has demonstrated a significant commitment to helping the town and village justices in their pursuit of providing their respective communities with knowledge, skill and dispositional excellence.