Once a Judge, No Funny Business!

Municipal Judge Vince A. Sicari, sitting in South Hackensack, New Jersey, is at the center of a debate over what judges may do in their free time. When Mr. Sicari is not presiding over a courtroom, he may be found performing on ABC’s “Primetime: What Would You Do?” and performing at a stand-up comedy club in New York City. Mr. Sicari, who acts and performs under the stage name Vince August, has been known to play homophobic and racist characters on “Primetime: What Would You Do?” In his shows at the New York City comedy club, he performs edgy, controversial sets that allow for crowd interaction. His attorney, however, claims that Mr. Sicari never makes jokes about being a judge, or a lawyer, or the law.

Mr. Sicari is now before the New Jersey Supreme Court appealing a 2008 advisory opinion by the Supreme Court Committee on Extrajudicial Activities that said he should not perform. The committee repeated the opinion in 2010. No complaint has been filed against the judge. He initiated the case by asking, when he became a judge in 2008, if he was allowed to perform comedy on the side, said his lawyer, E. Drew Britcher. A hearing was held Tuesday, where judges suggested that “hypothetically” someone who saw Mr. Sicari make homophobic remarks on television might be concerned about appearing before him in court the next day.

Mr. Britcher argued that Mr. Sicari has to work an additional job in order to supplement his $13,000 salary he earns as a municipal judge. Mr. Britcher also suggested that New Jersey rules that govern what a judge may or may not do should be revised to reflect income discrepancies between part-time judges like Sicari and full-time Superior Court judges. Deputy Attorney General Kim Ringler, who is representing the advisory committee before the New Jersey Supreme Court stated that there are acceptable ways, such as working as an attorney, to supplement your income as a part-time municipal judge. However, she stated, “serving as an actor for pay violates longstanding rules of judicial conduct.”

Should judicial committees have the right to dictate what jobs judges like Mr. Sicari may and may not perform to earn additional income?

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