The Committee on Judicial Ethics responds to written inquiries from New York state's approximately 3,400 judges, who serve both full- and part-time. The committee's opinions interpret the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct (22NYCRR, Part 100) and the Code of Judicial Conduct. The committee, comprised of 26 current and retired judges and headed by former Justice George D. Marlow, also answers inquiries about proper campaign conduct from candidates for elective judicial office. The New York Law Journal publishes selected recent opinions of the committee.
Digest: A judge may be an officer of a not-for-profit civic or fraternal organization, may appoint existing members of the organization to serve on fundraising committees, and may keep track of memberships and dues collected by local branches of the organization, as long as the judge is not personally involved in the solicitation of funds and does not use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fundraising or membership solicitation. Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.2(C); 100.4(C)(3)(a)(i)-(ii); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(I), (iv); Opinions 09-57; 09-28.
Opinion: The inquirer asks whether he/she may maintain certain leadership positions with a not-for-profit civic or fraternal organization, while also serving as a part-time judge. As an officer of the organization, the judge has "appointed people on different committees to address certain functions…such as ticket selling, fundraising [and] soliciting donations." The judge notes that he/she has, in the past, been "very active" in fundraising, but recognizes that "as a Judge I cannot participate in that area." The judge has already explained to other members that, if he/she is permitted to continue as an officer of the organization, they must "leave me out of that aspect of our goals and works" in the future. The judge further states that he/she is also responsible "for keeping track of…memberships," including dues collected by local branches of the organization, but the judge neither solicits nor receives dues payments.
A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always act to promote public confidence in the judiciary's integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). A judge may serve as an officer of a fraternal or civic organization not conducted for profit, subject to certain limitations (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][a][i]-[ii]) and may assist such an organization "in planning fundraising" (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][i]). However, a judge must not "personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fundraising activities" (id.) and must not "use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fundraising or membership solicitation" (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][iv]; cf. 22 NYCRR 100.2[C] [judge shall not lend prestige of office to advance interests of?others]).
In the committee's view, although a judge may not personally solicit funds, a judge may assign current members of a not-for-profit organization to its committees for the purpose of fundraising, selling tickets and soliciting donations (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][i]; Opinion 09-57 [a judge may recruit members from within the organization to solicit contributions (without invoking the judge's name or title) and may otherwise participate in non-solicitation activities of a fundraising project]). Nor do the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibit a judge from recording memberships and dues that others within a not-for-profit organization have solicited and received (cf. Opinion 09-28 [a part-time judge may assist a not-for-profit organization by auditing the organization's financial records].
Accordingly, the committee concludes that the inquiring judge may continue in the leadership positions as described, provided that the judge is not personally involved in the solicitation of funds and does not use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fundraising or membership solicitation.