Misuse of Parking Placards


Every year, the Commission receives and investigates complaints alleging that individual judges are inappropriately displaying official looking placards on the dashboards of their cars for personal purposes. Although such placards are intended for use only when on official business, it typically comes to our attention that some judges are using them to evade parking costs or restrictions near their homes, while shopping or dining out, or on other occasions clearly not associated with official court business.

In May 2019, then-Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks issued a statewide memorandum to all judges of the unified court system, noting that the use of such placards had again become “an issue of public concern.” While noting that misuse of parking placards is rare, Judge Marks was compelled to remind the judiciary that the “Rules and Limitations of Use” dictate that parking placards “may not be used for parking at home or when [the judge] is not performing official duties.”

Judges should also remember that such placards are intended only for parking and should not be displayed when driving, to avoid the implied assertion of judicial office when on personal business or stopped for a suspected motor vehicle infraction.1

Notwithstanding Judge Marks’s 2019 reminder to the judiciary, the Commission continues to receive periodic complaints of placard misuse. In this era of ubiquitous electronic devices, an alert citizen may quickly and easily take a cellphone photo of a car – parked, say, in a residential neighborhood, with a judicial placard displayed on the dashboard, on a weekend – and send it to the Commission with a complaint that the parking place and time were not likely related to official court business. It is not an excuse that a judge may be working from home on a particular day and in a manner of speaking be on official business when the car was parked in a no-parking zone with the placard on display.

Placard misuse is an easily avoided self-inflicted ethics injury. Even if the Commission were to dispose of the complaint with a confidential cautionary letter, the aggravation and disciplinary blemish to the individual judge, not to mention harm to the reputation of the judiciary, are hardly worth the money saved by displaying the placard rather than paying for parking.

Once again, the Commission reminds and urges judges to limit their use of parking placards for the intended purpose.

1The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct require that a judge must uphold the integrity of the judiciary and prohibit a judge from lending prestige of judicial office to advance his or her own private interests. Sections 100.1 and 100.2 (C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.

From the 2023 Annual Report, pages 26-27.