October 25, 2001
Digest: A judge may fund an award that recognizes a volunteer involved in high school athletics, and may present the award at an annual awards event, provided that there is no fund-raising or solicitation of contributions involved. The judge also may be identified as the donor in the awards event program and on the award.
22 NYCRR 100.2(C); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i), (iv);
For several years prior to assuming judicial office, the inquiring judge had funded an annual award in the name of the judge's deceased godfather, which was presented by the judge at an annual athletics award event to a volunteer who had shown a commitment to the athletic program. The judge asks whether it is ethically permissible to continue this practice and if so, whether the judge may be identified as the donor in the awards event program and in the award itself.
In an earlier opinion, the Committee determined that it is ethically permissible for a judge to make a monetary gift to the judge's former law school and for the law school to recognize the judge for doing so by naming an office after the judge. Opinion 99-121. In addition a judge may, using the judge's personal funds, establish a law school scholarship bearing the judge's name. Opinion 99-121. Neither gift required the judge to engage in fund-raising or solicitation of contributions. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i). Further, it did not appear that the use of the judge's name lent the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of others. 22 NYCRR 100.2(C); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iv).
As stated in Opinion 99-121, the Committee in Opinion 95-54 (Vol. XII)
had likewise found ethically permissible the creating of a scholarship
in the name of a judge:
As to creating a law school scholarship in the name of a judge,
the Committee addressed that question in Opinion 95-54 (Vol. XIII).
Of critical importance, in the Committee's view, was the fact that
contributions would not be made to or solicited on behalf of the
scholarship bearing the judge's name. Here, since the fund would
consist entirely of the judge's gift "without further contributions from
others," it would likewise "not appear that the prestige of judicial office
is being used for the purpose of soliciting . . . charitable contributions."
Opinion 95-54 (Vol. XIII). Accordingly, we reach the same conclusion
in this inquiry. As in Opinion 95-54 (Vol. XIII) "the Committee sees no
ethical objection in permitting a scholarship to be named after the inquiring
judge." Opinion 95-54 (Vol. XIII).
Here, the award is in the name of the judge's godfather. Only personal funds are used for the award and neither the funds for the award nor the award event involve fund-raising or solicitation of contributions. Thus, it is the Committee's opinion that the judge may fund an award recognizing a volunteer involved in high school athletics and may present the award during an awards event that does not involve fund-raising. In addition, the judge may be identified as the donor in the event program and on the award.