Gag ruling: N.J. high court to decide if judge can moonlight as comedian
Justice Vince Sicari is balancing two lives. He's a municipal judge in New Jersey; he's also comedian Vince August who warms up the crowd for "The Colbert Report" and sets up situations on the ABC show "What Would You Do?"
The joking judge also performs standup routines at Caroline's comedy club in New York.
Some in New Jersey, however, do not consider Sicari's moonlighting to be a laughing matter.
So the New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday heard Sicari's appeal of a New Jersey Advisory Committee on Extra-Judicial Activities' ruling that the South Hackensack judge had to drop the comedy routine if he wanted to keep the gavel.
Sicari's lawyer, E. Drew Britcher, insists that Sicari refrained from telling any jokes about the law in his act. He also argued that because Sicari only works part time as a judge, he needs the extra income.
Kim Ringler of the state attorney's general's office argued in favor of the ban. She says Sicari's work on the show "What Would You Do?" is particularly disturbing. In the reality show, actors create awkward situations that are secretly taped. In one episode, Sicari acted as a racist security guard in an attempt to reveal how the unsuspecting public would react.
Ringler says that kind of role is unacceptable.
"When an individual accepts the responsibility and the honor of becoming a judge, there are many attendant restrictions on personal conduct," she said. "And spewing forth bigotry and prejudice should be avoided in order to even risk an appearance of partiality."
Ringler and Britcher agree, however, that Sicari never joked around when he was presiding over his court.