Joint opinion of the Committees on Professional Ethics of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the New York County Lawyers’ Association on the subject of obtaining for compensation signed articles from judges of one of the courts of New York of articles dealing with certain phases of practice, procedure and substantive law in that court to be used by a former judge of the Municipal Court in the publication of a “Law Digest” on those subjects.
A former judge of the Municipal Court of the City of New York, who is now in private practice proposes to prepare and publish a “Law Digest” dealing with certain phases of practice, procedure and substantive law in one of the courts of New York. He intends to practice in that court. He proposes to ask several judges now sitting in the same court to contribute signed articles dealing with these subjects. The judges will be compensated for these articles. He asks whether there is anything unethical or improper in soliciting and publishing such material from these sitting judges.
The Canons of Judicial Ethics permit sitting judges to write and publish articles or books on legal subjects for pay, providing “such course does not interfere with the due performance of his judicial duties”. (Canon 31 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics.) There is also, of course, nothing improper on the part of an attorney in writing a book or article on a legal subject. (Canon 40 of the Canons of Professional Ethics.)
However, this Committee feels that the proposed project, which contemplates signed articles by sitting judges to be written, published and sold by a lawyer who will be practicing before those judges, violates the spirit of the Canons of both Judicial Ethics and Professional Ethics. We believe that th6 ultimate result of such a publication — whether intentional or not — would be to create the impression among litigants in that court that the lawyer has some extraordinary and privileged standing before the judges who contributed articles to the book. It could well lead people to believe that the advice and services of this attorney would be more authoritative and beneficial than other lawyers who practice in that court.
We think that the spirit of Canons 25 and 26 of Judicial Ethics may be violated by this project because reasonable suspicion may be aroused that the judges in submitting such articles are using the prestige of their office for the success of private business, and also because the relationship might normally tend to arouse suspicion that their judgment might be biased or their attitude not impartial in the administration of their judicial duties. (See Canon 3 of the Canons of Professional Ethics.)
We think that the spirit of Section 27 of the Canons of Professional Ethics may be violated because “the importance of the lawyer’s position is being indirectly advertised”.
Dated: November 7, 1958, New York, N. Y.