Digest: A judge may not provide a statement of endorsement for the local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) organization to be included in a brochure used for the purpose of recruiting volunteers.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iv); Opinions 90-73 (Vol. V); 98-98; 98-119.
A Family Court Judge has been asked to provide a statement of endorsement for the local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) organization. The statement will be included in a brochure used for the purpose of recruiting volunteers.
The organization describes itself as an independent, not-for-profit organization that trains community volunteers to be Court Appointed Special Advocates. It is the organization’s intention that these volunteers provide information to assist Family Court Judges who are presiding over foster care, reunification, adoption or abuse and neglect cases in making informed decisions that are in the best interest of the child(ren).
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct restrict the activities that a judge may perform on behalf of governmental or not-for-profit educational, religious, charitable, cultural, fraternal civic, organizations. Specifically, the rules prohibit a judge from using or permitting the use of the prestige of judicial office for membership solicitation. (22 NYCRR 100 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iv)).
Although this committee has previously opined that it is permissible for a judge to solicit lawyers for voluntary pro bono representation of the poor, those circumstances are clearly distinguishable from the facts in the instant inquiry. Opinion 90-73 (Vol. V). In opinion 90-73, a judge was asking lawyers to notify the court if they would accept pro bono assignments. In the instant inquiry this judge has been asked to solicit volunteers on behalf of a specific, not-for-profit civic organization. These facts are more analogous to the facts discussed in opinions 98-98 and 98-119. In opinion 98-98 this committee determined that a judge should not submit a letter for publication in a bar association’s newsletter encouraging attorneys to pay a fee and enroll in the association’s legal referral service. Similarly, in opinion 98-119 it was determined that a judge should not, on behalf of a not-for-profit organization, solicit volunteers to do physical labor, to solicit contributions or to serve on committees or on the board of directors of the organization. Opinions 98-98; 98-119.
Therefore, a judge may not provide a statement of endorsement for the local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) organization to be included in a brochure used for the purpose of recruiting volunteers.