September 19, 2013

N.J.'s high court rules against comedian-judge

The state Supreme Court rules unanimously that Vince Sicari's acting and comedy career 'is incompatible with the Code of Judicial Conduct.'

The Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. — A New Jersey judge will have to put his moonlighting career as an actor and comedian on hold.

click image to enlarge

Vince A. Sicari, a South Hackensack, N.J., municipal judge, performs at the Carolines on Broadway comedy club in New York in this February 2013 photo.

AP

That's the ruling of the state Supreme Court. In a unanimous 7-0 decision posted Thursday, the justices wrote that Vince Sicari's acting and comedy career "is incompatible with the Code of Judicial Conduct" and ordered that he not continue to serve as municipal court judge if he pursues that outside work.

The 44-year-old Sicari goes by the stage name Vince August and has made a career as a standup comic and on television. He is a part-time municipal judge in Hackensack in northern New Jersey.

A state ethics board recommended in 2008 that Sicari quit his comedy work. It had expressed concern over Sicari's character depictions on an ABC reality show and the potential content of his sketches.

Sicari appealed the ruling to the state's highest court, which heard arguments in February.

Sicari's attorney, E. Drew Britcher, insisted at the time that his client never cracked wise on the bench and never let on that he moonlighted as a comic. In his comedy routine, Britcher added, Sicari refrained from jokes about the legal profession and never divulged his other job as a judge.

An attorney for the state Attorney General's Office, Kim D. Ringler, argued against Sicari being allowed to hold both jobs, saying municipal judges represent the most frequent contact the public has with the justice system. Some of the characters Sicari has depicted could confuse the public and reflect badly on the judiciary, she argued.

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.

Sicari, who is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and other professional performers' unions, has said his entertainment work entitles him to health benefits and earns him more than his $13,000-a-year part-time judge salary.

Reached Wednesday, Sicari declined to comment ahead of Thursday's ruling.

He said during the Supreme Court arguments in February that he was equally passionate about both his jobs.

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