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NJ Supreme Court Says a Comedian Can’t Remain a Judge
Vince Sicari, a New Jersey municipal judge resigned last Thursday after the NJ Supreme Court held that he cannot continue on the bench and moonlight as a comedian.
Sicari says the NJ Supreme Court, in an unsigned opinion, held that his acting and comedy career was “incompatible” with codes of conduct that governed his judicial office and he had the choice of either continuing as a judge, or be a comedian.
Sicari chose to be a comedian.
He told the media, “I’m very disappointed … I take great pride in being a judge and to give that up is disappointing.”
Sicari was a part-time municipal judge in South Hackensack, but he also appears on network television with the stage name of Vince August.
The issue drew attention when Sicari played roles on the ABC hidden camera show “What Would You Do?” and he played homophobic and racist characters. Other judges were concerned that someone who watched the show may not know that he possessed a different character and may view his work as a judge to be tainted by the same prejudices that his characters showed.
In its opinion, the NJ Supreme Court observed, “In the course of his routines, Sicari has demeaned certain people based on national origin and religion and has revealed his political leanings … The court cannot ignore the distinct possibility that a person who has heard a routine founded on humor disparaging certain ethnic groups and religions will not be able to readily accept that the judge before whom he or she appears can maintain the objectivity and impartiality that must govern all municipal court proceedings.”
A state ethics board had recommended in 2008 that Sicari leave his comedy routines and expressed concerns over the characters he depicted. He appealed the ruling to the NJ Supreme Court against which the court gave its opinion.
Sicari, however, believes that for him it is better to be a comedian than a judge and told the media that his work as a comedian entitles him to health benefits and he earns more from it than the $13,000 salary of a part-time judge.
However, he said, he took pride in being a judge and that is why he had appealed the ruling of the ethics board.
However, the NJ Supreme Court said that he could return to his practice of law, and did not find any objection in a lawyer being a comedian.