September 12, 2002
Digest: A part-time judge (a) may be a member of and serve on the board of directors of a local merchants’ association, and participate in its annual craft fair, provided the judge does not solicit contributions (2) may play the role of Santa Claus in a weekend holiday promotion sponsored by the association.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3); Opinions 89-64 (Vol. III); 96-59 (Vol. XIV)
A part-time town justice inquires whether it would be permissible to continue membership, and serve as a member of the board of directors of a not-for-profit merchants’ association, whose membership includes business owners and professionals with offices in the community. The purpose of the association is to promote local tourism and commerce, and to raise funds for charitable causes, similar to the activities of a chamber of commerce.
The association conducts an annual craft festival which normally draws a large number of visitors over a weekend, with some 300 vendors selling crafts and food. Funds raised through fees charged to exhibitors and vendors are used for local beautification projects, cultural events, and a portion is donated to local charities. The judge inquires whether the judge may serve as chairperson of the festival, or participate therein as transportation director, parking cars, or assisting in clean-up duties.
The association also participates, along with a local economic development committee, in an annual Christmas holiday promotion. The judge inquires whether it would be appropriate to play the role of Santa Claus during that event.
Under the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, no judge, whether full or part-time, may use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(iv) However, a judge may be a member of a charitable or civic organization, and serve as an officer or member of the organization’s governing board, provided the judge does not solicit funds or permit the use of the judge’s name or title for that purpose. In applying the Rule, this Committee has determined
that a judge may serve as an officer or member of the board of directors of an area Jaycees and work at fund-raising affairs conducted by such organizations, provided the judge does not directly participate in the solicitation of funds. Opinions 89-64 (Vol. III); 96-59 (Vol. XIV). However, the judge should not act as chairperson of a fund-raising activity of the organization.
Further, under the facts stated in the inquiry, acting as Santa Claus in the holiday promotion would not place the judge in the position of soliciting funds, and, therefore, such activity would also be permissible.