10:47am PT by Eriq Gardner
New Jersey Judge Resigns to Pursue Comedy Career
A New Jersey judge is resigning his post after an unusual decision this week by the state's highest court.
Vince Sicari was a part-time municipal judge whose love of yuks took him to performing at New York stand-up clubs. He's also appeared on ABC's What Would You Do?, a reality show that uses hidden cameras to force unsuspecting people to make choices. Sicari had to make his own choice when the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled unanimously that his comedy was "incompatible with the Code of Judicial Conduct."
He's now decided that being funny is more important than handing down the rule of law in a serious manner.
"I was beyond proud to be a judge, and I consider myself lucky to have done two jobs I loved," Sicari tells ABC News. "But I respect the court's decision."
Sicari, 44, could have continued to be a judge, but the ruling said he couldn't serve as a judge while continuing his comedy career.
The basis for the ruling appears to be the court's conclusion that audiences might not be able to separate fiction from reality, that being in character taints the perception of someone's neutrality.
"In the course of his routines, Sicari has demeaned certain people based on national origin and religion and has revealed his political leanings," said the court's opinion. "The court cannot ignore the distinct possibility that a person who has heard a routine founded on humor disparaging certain ethnic groups and religions will not be able to readily accept that the judge before whom he or she appears can maintain the objectivity and impartiality that must govern all municipal court proceedings."
Sicari made $13,000 as a judge. His entertainment salary entitles him to health benefits from the Screen Actors Guild, making the decision an economically reasonable one for him.