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Joking Judge says his side job as a comedian is ethical

New Jersey Supreme Court will decide if Judge Vince Sicari can keep telling jokes

It’s one thing for a judge to have a second job to supplement his income, but when that second job is as a successful comic, some in the legal field cry ethics foul. But lawyers for Judge Vince Sicari—who moonlights as a comedian—see it differently, and argued their case in front of a New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday.

In 2008, a state ethics committee ruled that Sicari could no longer work as a paid comedian. Sicari, who goes by the stage name Vince August, makes $13,000 a year as a part-time judge and used the comic gigs to help supplement his income—opening up for shows such as “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report.”

In court documents appealing the ethics board’s ruling, Sicari claimed “there is never mention in either profession of the other.” He also said he relies on personal observations and his Italian-Catholic upbringing for material.

But despite that fact, the ethics board said some of Sicari’s previous work as a comedian was inappropriate for a sitting judge—citing a stint on the ABC reality show, “What Would You Do?” where he portrayed racist and homophobic characters. Committee members said in court documents that the "content of his comedy routine could give rise to an appearance of bias, partiality or impropriety or otherwise negatively affect the dignity of the judiciary." 

The court did not issue a ruling on Tuesday, but Sicari—who found his calling as a comedian when he was already a practicing lawyer—told the New York Times that if it came down to deciding between the two jobs, he would choose comedy.

Read more InsideCounsel stories about the lighter side of the practice of law.

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Cathleen Flahardy

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