(NEW YORK) — A New Jersey judge resigned Thursday after the state’s highest court forced him to choose between serving as a part-time municipal judge or moonlighting as an actor and comedian.
Vince Sicari told ABC News that he resigned after meeting with his presiding judge in South Hackensack, leaving the court with his robe in hand and a sense of pride over his time on the bench.
“I was beyond proud to be a judge and I consider myself lucky to have done two jobs I loved,” said Sicari. “But, I respect the court’s decision.”
Thursday’s unanimous decision dealt a blow to the man nicknamed the “joking judge” whose stage name is Vince August, under which he’s performed stand-up comedy throughout the tri-state area since the 1990s. But, it was the work of the 44-year-old actor on the ABC program What Would You Do? that seemed to give the justices their biggest concerns.
“The judge’s acting and comedy career is incompatible with the Code of Judicial Conduct and therefore he may not serve as a municipal court judge while continuing with that career,” read the 7-0 ruling.
Back in February when the court heard arguments, the justices questioned whether the public had the ability to separate Sicari’s position as a judge from the roles he’s played on the hidden-camera show, in which he has portrayed homophobic and racist characters. The judges noted that someone tuning in to the show might not know that the characters used in sketches were actors.
Sicari said he had hoped for a different decision, but was braced for the court’s interpretation.
During the arguments in February, the court was provided with copies of Sicari’s comedy routine and episodes of the ABC show.
When reviewing this material, the justices saw that the New York Law graduate and former practicing attorney refrained from making jokes about lawyers in an attempt to keep his two careers separate.
“Vince is a very good comedian and actor who has managed to have the vocation for that that most of us don’t and it’s unfortunate that there isn’t room for both,” said Sicari’s lawyer E. Drew Britcher.
According to Britcher, his client made $13,000 a year, with no benefits as a judge, overseeing traffic tickets and misdemeanor crimes.
“He has to maintain other employment,” Britcher told ABC News. “Economics may deprive him of a real choice.”
Sicari told ABC News that he makes more money as an actor and comedian than he did as a judge.
“As long as this is a rule, I won’t sit on the bench again in New Jersey. That is, unless someone wants to offer me a judge TV show.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Parija Kavilanz, CNN
Selena Larson, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Sara Israelsen-Hartley, Deseret News