June 27, 2001
Under the circumstances presented, and subject to the provisions of 22
NYCRR 100.4, the judge may continue to serve on the board of directors
of a local not-for-profit park development corporation.
22 NYCRR 100.4(A); 100.4(C)(3)(a);
100.4(C)(3)(b); Opinions 95-71 (Vol. XIII);
94-98 (Vol. XII); 94-65 (Vol. XII); 93-108
A full-time judge asks whether the judge may continue to serve as a director of a community-based not-for-profit corporation chartered for the purpose of creating a park along the waterfront in the judge's municipality. The corporation has used a variety of methods, including the holding of numerous public hearings, to obtain input from the public about the project and has published a master plan.
A judge may engage in extra-judicial activities so long as those activities (1) do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge's ability to act impartially; (2) do not detract from the dignity of judicial office; and (3) do not interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not incompatible with judicial office. 22 NYCRR 100.4(A). In particular, a judge may serve as a director of a not-for-profit civic organization so long as the organization will not be regularly engaged in adversarial proceedings before the judge or, if a full-time judge, such proceedings in any court. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(a). And, a judge must avoid involvement in fund-raising activities on behalf of the organization. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b).
In the past, the Committee has concluded that a judge may be a member of a non-partisan citizen's committee not involved in controversial issues (Opinion 93-108 [Vol. XII]) as well as a coalition of community organizations formed to preserve historic sites (Opinion 94-65 [Vol. XII]). In addition, a judge may serve on a synagogue committee to determine the feasibility of a building acquisition (Opinion 95-71 [Vol. XIII]) and on a county agricultural and farmland district advisory committee, provided such service does not interfere with the judge's judicial duties. Opinion 94-98 Vol. XIII.
The inquiring judge has not indicated any involvement in either fund-raising on behalf of the corporation or that there are any controversial issues or litigation surrounding the park project. It is the Committee's view, therefore, that so long as the position does not interfere with the judge's judicial duties, the judge may continue to act as a director of the development corporation. Of course, should any of the circumstances described in the inquiry alter, the judge must assess his or her participation in light of the ethical proscriptions set forth in the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.