The comedian who yucks it up under the name Vince August is apparently not amusing the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Extrajudicial Activities. Mr. August is a comedian who performs stand up in prominent New York comedy clubs like Carolines. His career highlights include warming up the studio audience at Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” and setting up passersby on ABC’s “Primetime: What Would You Do?” August’s material bridges into uncomfortable topics, including political correctness and stereotyping. Now here’s where things really get funny: Mr. August is really an attorney named Vince Sicari who works part-time as a municipal judge in the village of South Hackensack (for the modest sum of $13,000 a year). Believing that Mr. Sicari’s comic alter ego “negatively affects the dignity of the Judiciary,” the ethics board is seeking to force Sicari to choose between being a funny man and a judge. A hearing was held last week.
Americans have broad prerogative to pursue their interests outside of the workplace, unless those interests create a conflict of interest or negatively reflect on the employer. Mr. Sicari has taken reasonable steps to avoid these traps. He performs comedy under an alias and keeps legal/judicial issues out of his routines. No one has suggested that Mr. Sicari’s conduct on the bench warrants reproach. But the ethics board contends that what Mr. Sicari does under the Vince August persona diminishes the standing of the New Jersey bench. Meanwhile, fifteen New Jersey judges have been charged with judicial misconduct since January 2012 for a variety of serious reasons including showing bias on the bench, leveraging the judgeship for financial gain, and denying defendants access to a public defender. And now we add to this list of offenses the telling of politically insensitive jokes under an alias, outside of the court. Of this offense Mr. Sicari is undeniably guilty. But it is the witch-hunting Advisory Committee on Extrajudicial Activities that is inducing laughter. // Michael Adelberg