Opinion 00-31

March 9, 2000


Digest:         Under the circumstances presented, a judge may appear in a video being prepared by the local YWCA for presentation at a fund-raising luncheon celebrating certain local professionals, provided that no reference is made to the judge or the video in advertising the luncheon or in soliciting attendance or contributions; the judge will not be speaking on the video; and the content of the video does not relate to fund-raising.


Rule:            22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii).


         A judge has been asked to appear in a video that the local YWCA plans on showing at its annual luncheon celebrating certain professionals. The event is a major fund-raiser for the charity. As stated by the inquiring judge: "It will not be used in advertising the luncheon, or in soliciting ticket sales or contributions for the event. There are no plans to use the video in any future fund-raising efforts." Further, it appears that the judge will not be speaking on the video. The clip will show the judge at work, with the judge’s name and title printed on the screen.

         The Committee is of the opinion that with the taking of certain additional precautions, the judge's participation in the video is permissible. Primarily, this means that not only is the video not to be used in advertising the event or in the solicitation of contributions, but that neither may the judge's name be used for such purposes. And, of course, the content of the video should not relate to fund-raising. With such safeguards in place, we believe that the judge's participation falls within the exception provided for in section 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii) of the rules Governing Judicial Conduct, which states that a judge:

(ii) may not be a speaker or the guest of honor at an organization's fund-raising events, but the judge may attend such events. Nothing in this subparagraph shall prohibit a judge from being a speaker or guest of honor at a court employee organization, bar association or law school function or from accepting at another organization's fund-raising event an un-advertised award ancillary to such event;


Here, the judge is attending a fund-raising event, which he/she is permitted to do, and it does not appear that the judge will be speaking on the video. Moreover, although not receiving a formal award, the judge is being recognized for professional achievement. Such acknowledgment of the judge’s standing in the legal profession will not be advertised or in any way used to promote the event or the raising of funds. The content of the video itself will not be used to promote fund-raising. Under those circumstances, we believe the judge may appear in the video.