News

Court: judge’s comedy gig no laughing matter

Court: judge’s comedy gig no laughing matter

Vince Sicari, a municipal judge, has been moonlighting as a comedian. Photo: Associated Press/AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File

(Reuters) – Being a judge in New Jersey is no laughing matter.

That was the conclusion from the state’s highest court on Thursday, when it ruled a municipal judge could not continue to spend his days on the bench and his nights as a stand-up comedian.

Vince Sicari was the judge in South Hackensack, a small town in Bergen County, New Jersey, where he worked part-time ruling on traffic violations and other minor legal matters.

Vince August, his alter ego, 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.

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.

A few hours after the court ruled, Sicari, 44, 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.

His lawyer, E. Drew Britcher, said Sicari, who earned $13,000 a year as a judge, 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.

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.”

Recent Headlines

yesterday in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: April 24

bobdylan

A look at some of the biggest Hollywood headlines of days past.

yesterday in Local Sports

The Seahawks announce 2014-15 schedule

FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2011, file photo, taken with a fisheyelens, the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons play during an NFL football game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Opened in 2002, the stadium's signature roof canopies and rainbow-like trusses hang over the field to protect most of the seats and trap in the crowd noise.

The defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks will open their title defense on Thursday, Sept. 4, against the Green Bay Packers.

yesterday in Local Sports

Seager’s 2 HRs give Seattle 5-3 win over HoustonĀ 

seattle mariners mlb kyle seager

Mariners snap a 8 game losing streak to avoid AL West cellar.

yesterday in Sports

Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

NCAA President Mark Emmert answers a question at a news conference Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Arlington, Texas.

NCAA President Mark Emmert believes college sports can address the concerns of union organizers without changing the entire model.

yesterday in Local Sports

Seattle signs Trufant, CB expected to retire

seattle seahawks logo generic

Seattle announced the signing Wednesday and said Trufant was expected to announce his intentions during a news conference Thursday.