June 18, 2004
DIGEST: A judge may not appear as a “celebrity bartender” during a bar association fund-raiser.
RULE: 22 NYCRR 100.2(C); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii);100.4(D)(3);Op. 89-18, Vol. III; 90-97, Vol. VI; 96-147, Vol. XV; 99-89, Vol. XVIII.
A judge asks whether it is ethically permissible for a judge to appear as a “celebrity bartender” during a bar association fund-raiser. While the judge would serve drinks to attendees, the professional bar staff would make the drinks and collect payments from bar patrons. The restaurant would receive the proceeds from the drink sales.
A judge may be a speaker or a guest of honor at a bar association function, including fund-raising events. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i). A judge may not, however, personally participate in the solicitation of funds or in other fund-raising activities. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii). Nevertheless, this Committee has concluded that a judge may prepare and serve food at a church fund-raiser provided that the food is not being sold at a substantially higher price than would be charged by commercial establishments. Opinion 99-89, Vol. XVIII. A judge also may clear tables after a fraternal organization’s fund-raising supper as such activity does not involve the solicitation of funds, either directly or indirectly (Opinion 89-18, Vol. III); may play in a fund-raising softball game so long as the judge does not sell tickets to the game or solicit pledges from donors (Opinion 90-97, Vol. VI); and, may participate in an “AIDS ride” as a bicyclist or a “crew person”, so long as the judge does not solicit contributions on behalf of the organization or permit contributions to be made in the judge’s name (Opinion 96-147, Vol. XV).
In the present inquiry, the judge would serve drinks that were prepared by professional bar staff and would not collect payments from bar patrons. Nor would the bar association receive any of the proceeds from drink sales. Nevertheless, the judge would be designated a “celebrity bartender”, presumably to encourage people to attend the event. In the Committee’s view, by appearing as a “celebrity bartender”, the judge would be lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of others, which is prohibited by section 100.2(C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.
Finally, we also believe this activity would violate 100.4(D)(3), prohibiting full-time judges from actively participating in “any business entity.”