New Jersey Rules Stand Up Comedy is Impermissible Judicial Pursuit

According to the New Jersey Supreme Court (“NJSC”), pursuing a career in stand-up comedy, reality television, and film, while simultaneously residing on the bench is incompatible with the State’s Code of Judicial Conduct.  In forming this opinion, the NJSC relied on Canons 5A and 1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Canon 5A states that “expressions of bias or prejudice” that may cast doubt on a judge’s impartiality can include “jokes or other remarks.”  Canon 1 is considered the “bedrock principle” of integrity, independence, and high standards of conduct, designed to avoid impropriety and promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

Judge Vincenzo August Sicari, who serves as a part-time Municipal Court Judge in South Hackensack, N.J., lives a dual life: judge by day and comedian by night.  Under the alias Vince August, he derives most of his income by appearing on nationally syndicated radio shows, performing seven days a week at stand-up comedy clubs in New York City, and working on the reality television program “What Would You Do?”  He also starred in and directed an award-winning independent film.

After reviewing Judge Sicari’s stand-up routines and television roles, the NJSC felt that his entertainment “demeaned certain people based on national origin and religion, revealed his political leanings, and declared his dislike for and intolerance of children.”  Thus, the NJSC concluded that, “[t]he mere appearance of bias in a judge—however difficult, if not impossible, to quantify—is sufficient to erode respect for the judiciary.”

For those of you who practice law and still dream of blazing the comedic trail, not all is lost.  The court did maintain that one may be able to pursue a parallel career as an actor and comedian while functioning solely as an attorney.  But, in Judge Sicari’s case “[o]nce he chose to serve as a municipal court judge, his conduct outside the courtroom became subject to a higher standard.”

For the formal advisory opinion click here and to read our previous post on Mr. Sicari’s case click here.

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