No laughing matter - N.J.'s high court rules part time judge can't moonlight as comic.

I get the impression this guy’s primary job is a working comic. He’s in SAG and appeared on ABC What Would You Do. His comic work is under a stage name.

I’m very surprised NJ’s high court ruled that a perfectly legal and respected craft somehow disqualifies someone from being a part time traffic court judge. Nothing in the article implies he ever cracked jokes in the courtroom.

I guess NJ would impeach Al Franken then? Just imagine the impropriety of a member of SAG and a former SNL cast member representing NJ in congress. :stuck_out_tongue:

I guess theres no appealing this injustice to SCOTUS? He’s just S.O.L?

“Somehow disqualifies” meaning:

That identical argument could be made for any number of professions. Doctors, accountants, police officer, or even a psychiatrist. Is Dr Phil (a psychologist) somehow an unethical embarrassment to his profession? Maye Dr. Oz should turn in his medical license.

That’s the problem. There’s nothing special about being a traffic court judge. It’s a job just like any job. All he’s doing is ruling on mundane stuff like speeding tickets.

I would agree a higher standard applies to family court judges and criminal judges. They rule on more serious cases with potential long term prison sentences.

Except for one thing- if I think my doctor or accountant is biased against me becasue of my religion or ethnic group, I can choose to go elsewhere. I don’t get to choose which officer pulls me over or which judge hears my case in traffic court - and if I’ve seen that judge demean people of my ethnicity in a stand- up routine, I may not feel all that comfortable that he found me guilty on the merits rather than my ethnicity. You’ll notice no one said he couldn’t practice law along with being a comic - only that he couldn’t be a judge.

This ruling strikes me as ridiculous; the “logic” followed is unbelievably short-sighted and seems tailored to reach a desired conclusion. For instance, the same “logic” would likely prevent someone from being a judge if they had a twin who was a stand-up comic who made ethnic and political jokes.

Also, the court ruling makes it clear that when he is performing, Mr. Sicari is acting. How is portraying a fictional character or a fictional viewpoint evidence of possible bias?

This ruling and the reasoning behind it seem deeply flawed to me.

My understanding is that Dr. Phil stopped practicing as a psychologist before his show.
Not sure about Dr. Oz, but some of the advice he gives on his show is pretty new agey and out there from what I’ve read.
Also, psychiatrists are in fact doctors, for the record. Psychiatry is a specialty of medicine just like cardiology is. :slight_smile:

So all judges nationwide are supposed to make sure nobody ever hears anything remotely political come out of their mouth, or witness them in public acting in a way that might be construed as biased, or know of their personal opinions?

Where does the line get drawn?

This is legally akin to a police agency limiting off duty employment to approved jobs, which is legal.

This is from the opinion;

This case presents the first opportunity for this Court to address whether the appearances by a sitting municipal court judge in comedy clubs, commercial videos, and regular television appearances contravene the Code of Judicial Conduct, specifically Canon 5. We have had the occasion to review a
situation where a sitting municipal court judge made regular appearances on commercial television programs to discuss cases pending in other jurisdictions. In re Broadbelt, 146 N.J. 501, 505 (1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1118, 117 S. Ct. 1281, 137 L. Ed. 2d 332 (1997). In that case, we determined that the appearance violated Canon 3A(8) – prohibiting comment about pending or impending matters in any court – and Canon 2B – directing judges to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities. Id. at 511, 512. Addressing the possibility that other judges might be invited to appear on a televised program, this Court noted that it could not envision every circumstance in which an appearance might occur and suggested that a limited appearance on public television might be consistent with the canons. Id. at 515.

We stated:
Not every television appearance by a judge on commercial television will be improper, or will create the appearance of impropriety. For example, it might be permissible for a municipal court judge to make an isolated appearance on public television to comment on the role of municipal court judges in the judiciary. Similarly, a one-time appearance by a Superior Court judge on a commercial television program dealing with the benefits and disadvantages of televising civil trials might be permissible. However, a judge’s regular weekly appearance on a television program, whether the program was commercial or non-commercial, to comment on recent court decisions in New Jersey clearly would be improper.

I think Justice Scalia may be biased, I saw him on TV demeaning people of different religious backgrounds and political leanings. How can I be sure he is objective in his rulings?

They all laughed when I told them I was going to be a standup comic. Well, nobody’s laughing now!

Al Franken is a Senator from Minnesota.

As far as I can tell, the line is drawn between a public setting and a private one. There is a difference between a judge making a comment to a friend ( even if it is is overheard) and one making that same comment in a club, newspaper column, television interview , etc. Two differnces, actually. One is that if I am a judge, I will have to recuse myself from my friend’s case regardless of any comment I made. The second is that many more people will exposed to the comment made in the club or newspaper or on TV. causing a much bigger practical problem.

Look around- when you see active judges ( not retired ones) interviewed on TV or in other media, it's a biographical type of interview, not an interview regarding the judge's opinions of court decisions or his political views or how she would rule in a hypothetical case. Some judges in my state are elected- and their campaign literature consists of their family status and education and work history. Nothing that would give me a hint about the candidate's beliefs.

Oh, and there are plenty of government entities that require approval of outside employment. It’s not just judges.

What makes all this … well … laughable is that New Jersey does permit part-time judges to work as lawyers, which Sicari did. Somehow, it’s OK for him to represent particular clients, argue legal positions over disputed issues, and generally take sides in pending cases, and none of that raises a concern about the appearance of his objectivity like telling jokes does.

That reminds me of something funny a client of mine allegedly said!

That’s why it was given as a hypothetical. New Jersey could only impeach their own senators, after all.