The Committee is comprised entirely of judges. Just as a precaution, in the event the content of the linked site is changed, I copied and pasted below the actual composition of the NYS Advisory Committee as it is today:
Committee:Hon. George D. Marlow (ret.), Chair,
Hon. Betty Weinberg Ellerin (ret.), Vice Chair
Hon. Jerome C. Gorski (ret.), Vice Chair
Hon. Daniel D. Angiolillo
Hon. Richard T. Aulisi
Hon. Arnold F. Ciaccio (ret.)
Hon. Vito DeStefano
Hon. David Elliot
Hon. Debra L. Givens
Hon. Michael R. Juviler (ret.)
Hon. Barbara R. Kapnick
Hon. Bentley Kassal (ret.)
Hon. James J. Lack (ret.)
Hon. Yvonne Lewis
Hon. Richard B. Lowe III
Hon. Robert M. Mandelbaum
Hon. Judith McMahon
Hon. Thomas E. Mercure
Hon. Denise F. Molia
Hon. Robert C. Mulvey
Hon. E. Jeannette Ogden
Hon. John M. Owens
Hon. Stanley Parness (ret.)
Hon. David J. Roman
Hon. Thomas J. Sheeran
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Honorary MembersHon. Louis C. Benza
Hon. Lawrence J. Bracken
Hon. Harold J. Hughes
As the list shows, all of the members are sitting or retired judges.
Now, if judges were a self-regulated guild, I would understand that only members of the guild may regulate one another and establish their own rules.
When we are talking about elected public officials, with due respect and as a voter and part of the People of the State of New York who is the sovereign in the state of New York, I would object to judges establishing rules for themselves that govern their own ethics.
I would expect that the public must have an input into these rules of ethics and into interpretation of those rules.
To include only judges into the panel of the Advisory Committee for Judicial Ethics sends a message to me as a member of the public that judges do not trust members of the public to participate in shaping judicial ethics? And that is even though judges are not members of a private guild, but instead are individually elected public officers?
In my view it is the public who must define rules of ethics for its public officers, and should do it through its elected representatives in the Legislature. It is also my belief as a member of the public that the public must have a supermajority on this Committee, whether lay members of the public have the necessary expertise in the law or not. If the Committee is comprised predominantly by the public, nothing will preclude members of the public, if they comprise the Committee for Judicial Ethics, to consult experts who know the law, but the decision will still be not by the experts, but by the Committee comprised of public members.
Yet, judicial ethics concern important issues, such as disqualification and impartiality of judges, it is an issue of grave public concern and cannot be given to be define entirely or even predominantly to judges who have an obvious interest in defining such issues. It cannot be given to define to lawyers either, because lawyers are financially dominated by judges in the most profound way. Lawyers' licenses and livelihoods are in the hands of the judiciary, and lawyers are not neutral in defining rules of judicial ethics, as they are depending on the judiciary for their livelihood.
I, as a member of the public, believe, that judicial ethics must be defined, interpreted and the Advisory Committee for Judicial Ethics must be comprised predominantly of lay individuals, and of lay individuals who have nothing to do with the court system, who are not relatives, friends, spouses, significant others of officers or employees of the court system or lawyers.
Only then we as the public can be sure that opinions on judicial ethics are neutral and not self-serving.
Opinions from the public are welcome.