Decision clears way for New York judge to keep on rocking
NEW YORK — Acting state Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic has an important decision to make, with potentially far-reaching implications: Does the classic rock band he used to play in need a new name?
So far, his children and co-workers have suggested Rock-n-Robes, L.L. Cool Judge, and the Electric Chairs.
And while D’Emic, 57, has no plans to turn in his gavel for a new Fender guitar any time soon, at least now he knows he’s allowed to. A recent opinion from New York’s Committee on Judicial Ethics said state judges are free to play in bands for money or sell their artworks — as long as it doesn’t interfere with their day jobs.
While there was no rule that prohibited them from extra-judicial activities, two anonymous judges requested clarification from the ethics committee to see if it was proper to moonlight as musicians or artists.
“The judge who wishes to pursue part-time employment as a solo musician may do so only occasionally, for a fee, for family, friends, neighbors, and others who are unlikely to appear in the judge’s court,’’ the committee of 26 current and former judges wrote this month.
D’Emic had a gig three weeks later at a bar where his band, Whippoorwill, used to play in the 1970s. He said the ethics rule was clarified to help judges who might want to earn some extra money; state judges make $136,700 annually but haven’t had a raise in 12 years.
Other states also have tried to address the issue of judges moonlighting after hours, said Cynthia Gray, director of the Center for Judicial Ethics at the American Judicature Society. Just like in New York, advisory opinions in Wisconsin and Massachusetts allow judges to sell their artworks.
In Illinois, a judge was granted permission to play violin in a wedding, and another was told he can act in a play for an honorarium of only a few thousand dollars; additional compensation was prohibited. Judges in Ohio, Arizona, and Massachusetts were told they can serve as referees for football, soccer, and softball.
D’Emic isn’t expecting his music career to inflate his income very much, though.
“Now I don’t envision that it’s gonna help much ’cause I do have a day job and I can’t really spend a lot of time trying to find jobs at night to play gigs at,’’ said D’Emic, who earlier had played in bands and as a solo act while attending Fordham University and Brooklyn Law School. But I would like to do it occasionally — less for the money, more for the fun.’’