When worlds collide.

An interesting legal ethics case out of New Jersey has caused a former municipal judge to resign. According to the ABA Online Journal Vincent Sicari, in addition to his municipal judgeship, was working as a stand up comedian on the side. The State Supreme court unanimously ruled that Mr. Sicari could not continue to preside over municipal court so long as he was also performing stand up comedy routines. Given the ultimatum, Mr. Sicari chose to resign from his position as a judge.

In its reasoning, the Supreme Court of New Jersey considers some of the content from Mr. Sicari’s comedy routine. It is the court’s opinion that in the course of his show Mr. Sicari demeaned certain persons, ethnic groups, or people based on their national origin, in addition to revealing some of his political leanings. Based on the reasonable possibility some of those same same persons or ethnic groups he demeans may appear before his court, Mr. Sicari was forced to choose between comedy or his judgeship.

Admittedly, the action of the New Jersey Supreme Court does not strike me as unconscionable. While I adamantly oppose restraints or suppression of freedom of speech, at the same time the impartiality of the tribunal is sacrosanct. As an attorney it is uncomfortable to see limits placed on speech, even if it is offensive.  However, judges are public officials and may be subject to a heightened degree of scrutiny or criticism. The issues are complex, but on the information given here I think the court played it safe and made the right decision. Mr. Sicari, on the other hand, is now free to say whatever he wants.

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