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N.J. Supreme Court Orders 'Joking Judge' to Get Off the Stage

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on September 19, 2013 1:30 PM

Vince Sicari, coined the "joking judge" in New Jersey, couldn't win over a tough crowd -- the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Sicari, a part-time municipal judge, moonlights as a comedian and actor. But New Jersey's Supreme Court wanted the curtains to close. The state's highest court unanimously ordered the joking judge to either quit comedy or step down from the bench.

Orders by Day, One-Liners by Night

By day, Vince Sicari is a part-time municipal judge in South Hackensack, where he handles minor offenses such as traffic ticket and disorderly persons cases, reports The Associated Press.

By night, "Vince August" is a stand-up comic and thespian, appearing on network television, making the rounds in New York City comedy clubs and serving as a warm-up for Comedy Central audiences. He's even appeared on the ABC "Primetime" hidden camera show, "What Would You Do?" in which he's portrayed homophobic and racist characters.

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

The curtains were drawing to a close in 2008, when the state ethics committee ruled that Sicari couldn't continue working as a paid entertainer while working part-time as a judge.

The committee was concerned over his character depictions on the ABC show and the content of his stand-up sketches, which included "disparaging certain ethnic groups and religions" and "revealing his political leanings," according to the court's opinion.

Sicari appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court. But alas, the court brought the ethics committee's decision to center-stage and opted for an encore. The court was concerned that Sicari's characters and comedy would confuse the public and reflect poorly on the state judiciary. While some humor on the bench is welcome, a judge must avoid impropriety and even the appearance of impropriety in all activities, including personal ones -- yes, even in New Jersey.

Judges must appear impartial and Sicari's humor had the potential of tarnishing that pristine appearance, the court ruled.

Sicari is in some unlikely company. In light of appearances of partiality made by U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, lawmakers have proposed the Supreme Court Ethics Act of 2013, which would subject the justices to the same ethics standards that currently apply to federal judges.

Sicari told the AP on Thursday that he has resigned from his judicial post. He's bummed about losing his judicial role, but his comedy is actually what sustained him financially [Insert your best waning legal profession salary joke here.]

How much do you want to bet that a "Judge Vince" daytime show is in the works?

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