July 6, 2004
Digest: A judge who is a graduate of a college where the judge is also an adjunct professor may, as a faculty member and prominent alumnus welcome prospective students and their families at the college’s Open House, but may not wear robes, allow the program to detract from the dignity of judicial office, or suggest that the judge’s official position would be for the benefit of anyone.
Rules: 100.2(C); 100.4(A)(2); 100.4(C)(3); 100.4(H)(1)(c)(2); Opinions 02-21; 96-75 (Vol. XIV); 91-19 (Vol. VII); 88-79 (Vol. II).
A full-time judge who is an alumnus of a private college, where the judge has taught business law as an adjunct professor for many years, inquires whether it is appropriate to be the welcoming speaker at the college’s Open House for prospective students and their families. The inquirer would be introduced as a member of the faculty, but would also be referred to by his/her judicial title. Other professors would also be in attendance explaining the college’s courses, and would have lunch with the guests. The judge would not appear in robes.
Rule 100.2(C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, provides that a judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others. Rule 100.4(A)(2) requires that a judge conduct all of the judge’s extra-judicial activities so that they do not detract from the dignity of judicial office. Rule 100.4(H)(1)(c)(2) provides that a judge may receive the ordinary compensation for teaching a regular course of study at any college, if the teaching does not conflict with the proper performance of judicial duties. Rule 100.4(C)(3) authorizes a judge to be a member, officer, trustee or non-legal advisor of an educational organization, as long as the judge does not solicit funds or allow the judge’s name to be used in solicitation of funds.
In our opinion, participation in a college’s recruitment program under the circumstances of the present inquiry is permitted by these rules. Prominent graduates often take part in college recruitment programs as examples of the success one can achieve by virtue of an education at their colleges, and professors commonly speak at such events. In this context, participation by a judge does not itself give the appearance that the judge is using the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or the college.
Moreover, Rule 100.4(H)(1)(c)(2) authorizes judges to teach at colleges; and Rule 100.4(C)(3) permits a judge to be an active member of a non-profit educational organization, absent use of the judge’s name for fund-raising. The recruitment program described in the present inquiry is not fund-raising as the Rule contemplates that activity.
In Opinion 91-19 (Vol. VII), the Committee stated that as part of a college’s recruitment program a judge who is an alumnus may write a letter marked “personal and unofficial” to prospective students that sets forth the judge’s feelings about the college and describes the judge’s legal career, but does not solicit funds. The Committee also has approved inclusion of a resume and photograph of a judge-alumnus in a university’s advertising brochure that is distributed to the public and prospective employers of the school’s graduates (Opinion 88-79 [Vol. VII]); the use by a judge’s law school alma mater of a promotional postcard containing the judge’s photograph taken in the courtroom and featuring the judge as a “high achieving alumna” (Opinion 96-75 [Vol. XIV]); and inclusion of a judge’s biography and photograph in robes in a public university’s promotional campaign, provided that the judge insured the dignity of the promotion. Opinion 02-21.
Unlike the present inquiry, none of the foregoing opinions involved a personal appearance by the judge. However, for the reasons stated, the Committee believes there is no ethical bar to a personal appearance. The judge must take care, however, to maintain the dignity of judicial office and avoid any suggestion the judge is using his/her judicial status to benefit the college, the students, or their families. As a reasonable measure to avoid any implication of official approval or support of the college in its recruitment efforts, the judge should not wear judicial robes during these events.