Caddo voters have a judicial election on the ballot in October, and it’s no laugher. The issues seem to be understated as candidates walk and talk in the afternoons door-to-door with citizens concerning their record and fitness to serve on the bench. We don’t need a comedian or “wanna-be” who has been unsure of what branch of government he serves today and where he will be if elected. This New Jersey judge had his choice determined by a higher authority.
Vince Sicari, judge in South Hackensack, New Jersey, worked part-time ruling on traffic violations and other minor legal matters, however, Vince August alter ego of Judge Sicarri, is a comic and television actor who has frequently appeared on the ABC show “What Would You Do?” and regularly performs at Caroline’s, a New York City comedy club. So, what’s wrong with this? In a 30-page opinion – which, for the record, did not contain a single joke – the New Jersey Supreme Court essentially told Sicari to choose between doling out puns or punishment.
“The concern is whether an ordinary member of the public can divorce the comedy routine or the roles played by Vince August from Judge Sicari,” the court wrote. So, a few hours after the court ruled, Sicari said he accepted the decision and would immediately resign from the bench.
“I am hopeful that all involved feel that I have served the judiciary with the honor and distinction that it deserves,” he said in a statement. Sicari’s lawyer, E. Drew Britcher, said Sicari earned $13,000 a year as a judge but relies on his comedy for a full-time income and health benefits.
As a regular on “What Would You Do?,” a hidden-camera show that uses actors to re-enact real-life situations to see how bystanders react, Sicari has played numerous offensive characters, including a homophobic bar patron and a racially profiling security guard.
Like many stand-up comics, Sicari also comments on religion, race, politics, sex and other potentially touchy subjects in his routines. Unfortunately those off-color comments could make it difficult for residents who appear before him to believe that he can remain impartial and objective, the court concluded.
“To be sure, the routines are designed to be funny,” the court wrote. “We must acknowledge, however, that many regard the maxim ‘Many a true word is said in jest’ as a fundamental truth.”Sicari had appealed a 2008 decision from the state ethics committee that said he could not pursue both careers at the same time.
He argued that he kept his legal career completely separate from his comedic work, eschewing jokes about lawyers while on stage and never cracking wise while on the bench. Sicari became South Hackensack’s judge in 2008 after 12 years in private practice.
“We felt this raised a unique question,” said Britcher, Sicari’s attorney. “Clearly, municipal judges in small municipalities need to have other employment. We wanted to ask why he could be a carpenter but not a comedian and actor.”
Now, if Caddo citizens can see the humor in this, and the seriousness of citizen needs for a consistent legal system, all may benefit from open discussion prior to coming judicial and other elections.
Caddo citizen’s needs are great, and that’s no laughing matter! Voters need to ask hard questions and demand accountability for the accurate record of each candidate.