February 27, 2013

Judge by day, stand-up comedian at night — not acceptable under state ethics rules?

Part-time municipal judge Vince Sicari appeals to the Supreme Court of New Jersey to overturn the decision of the state ethics committee, which found an ethics violation.
Kim D. Ringler of the state attorney general's office argued in favor of the ban, saying municipal judges represent the most frequent contact the public has with the justice system. Some of the characters Sicari has depicted on TV could confuse the public and reflect badly on the judiciary, she said.

"His actions detract from the dignity of his judicial office and may reflect adversely on the judge's impartiality," Ringler said of Sicari's performances....

Sicari makes $13,000 a year as a part-time judge... He never cracks jokes on the bench and never lets on that he moonlights as a comic, [his lawyer] said. On stage, he doesn't touch lawyer jokes, the lawyer said.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner questioned whether Sicari's comedic routines touched on topics considered commonplace in the comedy world, including "remarks demeaning individuals on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socio-economic status," which are prohibited under judge's rules of conduct.

Britcher said Tuesday that much of Sicari's comedy is derived from personal observations outside of work, such as his upbringing as an Italian Catholic.

On Monday night, Sicari headlined at Caroline's comedy club in New York and brought down the house with his acerbic takes on current events, including the scandals surrounding Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius. None of the jokes targeted the legal profession, but his humor did touch on the categories Rabner mentioned.
He headlined at Caroline's comedy club and he's not even tapping the material he must have in his head about lawyers? What a drag it is to be a judge! The requirement of sobriety is easy for some, a terrible burden for others.

I hope Sicari wins his case, but if he loses, I hope he dumps his day job and lets us hear all the lawyer jokes he's been keeping to himself in his effort to avoid confusing the public and reflecting badly on the judiciary. If you're really good, Mr. Sicari, bust loose and confuse the hell out of us with all the bad reflections you've got.
Several justices questioned whether the public had the ability to separate Sicari's position as a judge from roles he has played on the ABC hidden camera show "What Would You Do?" in which he has portrayed homophobic and racist characters.

Associate Justice Anne M. Patterson asked about a person who watches such a skit on TV and then comes into court for a traffic ticket hearing. "Is that person going to have their confidence in the dignity of the judiciary affected?" Patterson asked.

Ringler, arguing that the roles of judge and comedian are incompatible, cited the example of the actor Larry Hagman, who was said to have been berated in public by fans who associated him with his role as the conniving J.R. Ewing in the long-running television series "Dallas."
Oh, no. People are dumb, and people must go before judges....

29 comments:

Scott M said...

We just saw Brian Posehn live last Friday night. If I were to walk into court the week after seeing his stand-up, only to see him sitting behind the bench judging my case...am I supposed to take that seriously?

Phil 3:14 said...

Is he gay? If only he were gay.

Craig said...

The ethics committee should be sentenced to a year of Night Court reruns.

Mark O said...

Isn't it time to let the public know how stupid most of the judges really are?

AllenS said...

Think about all of the jokes he could make about dumb criminals who got caught.

EDH said...

It's getting so that judges are becoming afraid of their own penumbras.

Craig said...

Does he do Mel Torme impressions?

Mitchell the Bat said...

If you want a good laugh, try reading the New Jersey school funding cases.

traditionalguy said...

After deliberation, the Ethics panel Judges have decided that they are jealous.

Now wipe that smile off your face Posehn!

All comedy in New Jersey must be done by Jolly Fat Men in the executive branch.

Tibore said...

"Some of the characters Sicari has depicted on TV could confuse the public and reflect badly on the judiciary, she said."

What an amazing argument! Hey folks: The public is dumb, they can't separate reality from a stand up routine!!

Christ... that's the same argument used by the How To Read Donald Duck advocates i.e. "The People" are just blank slates to write attitudes and impressions on, that the public is somehow not comprised of thinking individuals who can analyze things for themselves.

Is part of the job requirement for municipal employees to be condescending to the people they're supposed to serve??

TML said...

Dignity of the Judiciary. Rich, that. Maybe he could come to the Wisco Supreme Court and get some really good material.

Tibore said...

"Several justices questioned whether the public had the ability to separate Sicari's position as a judge from roles he has played on the ABC hidden camera show "What Would You Do?" in which he has portrayed homophobic and racist characters."

Ugh! Just like what I said above: It's like public "servants" condemn all of us to just be lackwitted idiots or something. Christ...

edutcher said...

Ethics?

In Jersey?

Where Christie sells out everybody, including himself?

Craig said...

The ethics committee should be sentenced to a year of Night Court reruns.

I was thinking the same thing.

DADvocate said...

Several justices questioned whether the public had the ability to separate Sicari's position as a judge from roles he has played on the ABC hidden camera show...

First, legal ethics is an oxymoron.

Second, I question whether these justices have the ability to separate reality from fantasy, especailly their incredibly negative and degrading fantasy of the public. None of these justices should be sitting on the bench as their prejudices are overwhelming.

DADvocate said...

Does he do Mel Torme impressions?

LOL. "Night Court" Loved that show.

Calypso Facto said...

But going on "The View" is totally cool....

St. George said...
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EDH said...

'Night Court' Star Richard Moll -- No Way In Hell I'd Do a Reunion.

Shanna said...

If you're only paying the guy 13k a year, you should leave his other job alone.

Vince said...

This from a Supreme Court which once ruled that the Democrats could break the law and switch candidates. The reasoning of the justices was that the present candidate (incumbent Robert Toricelli)was tainted by allegations of corruption (surprise, surprise)and, what if he won? As a result we ended up with the second coming of Frank Lautenberg, which has been worse than the first edition!

Vince said...

This from a Supreme Court which once ruled that the Democrats could break the law and switch candidates. The reasoning of the justices was that the present candidate (incumbent Robert Toricelli)was tainted by allegations of corruption (surprise, surprise)and, what if he won? As a result we ended up with the second coming of Frank Lautenberg, which has been worse than the first edition!

bagoh20 said...

I hate that show "What would you do?". It's so insultingly PC. The racists are always white. The sexists are always white men. It's just a series of preachy cliches.

bagoh20 said...
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Unknown said...

"His actions detract from the dignity of his judicial office..."

The California judiciary doesn't need help from stand-up comics, members of the judiciary or not, in beclowning themselves.

garage mahal said...
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Chip S. said...

Comedy? No way.

Insanity? No problem.

The insanity verdict could aid the judge's effort to return to the bench.

Chip S. said...

Maybe if this judge is determined to be insanely funny he'll be able to keep both jobs.

Methadras said...

The next Henny Youngman. Take my bench please!!!

Sisyphus said...

If the NJ Bar rules against him, good luck winning that suit, New Jersey. Haven't they ever heard of the First Amendment, or maybe the Fourteenth? State Bars are losing cases on lawyer speech that doesn't directly relate to them advertising themselves all over the country, and the NJ Bar thinks they can regulate what a part-time judge says when he's not judging? They are going to end up paying for years of bad motels on the comedy circuit...