Opinion 03-02

January 23, 2003


Digest:         The disposition by a full-time judge of his/her collection of sports memorabilia by way of direct sale to dealers, or consignment, or auction, or a one-time liquidation, would not violate section 100.4(D)(3) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.4(D)(3); 94-113 (Vol. XII); 95-74 (Vol. XIII).


         The inquiring full-time judge who has a collection of sports memorabilia largely accumulated in the 1970's wishes to dispose of most of the collection. As stated by the judge “(p)ossible options include direct sale to one or more dealers, consignment, auction, or if logistically feasible a substantially one-time liquidation.” The judge seeks the Committee’s guidance as to whether any of the methods proposed might violate any ethical rule.

         With certain exceptions, section 100.4(D)(3) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct bars a full-time judge from being an active participant in any business entity. Whether a particular set of circumstances can be considered a forbidden business activity was before the Committee in Opinion 94-113(Vol. XII), where the inquiring judge had been engaged in the buying and selling of Oriental rugs, as a hobby, and asked whether engaging in such transactions violated any ethical rules. In response, the Committee stated that it did not have sufficient information to reach a conclusion. However, in Opinion 95-74(Vol. XIII), in response to a follow-up inquiry by the same judge, the Committee stated that “if you are engaged in a continuing activity of buying and selling carpets, although personally you may regard the activity as a hobby, that activity, in fact, constitutes a business and is not permissible. If, however, you wish to have a substantially one-time liquidation of your carpets that is permissible. It is preferable that such a liquidation be done by consignment to an auction house or dealer.”

         Here, it does not appear that the inquiring judge has been engaged in any ongoing business activity of buying and selling sports memorabilia. The judge acquired most of the items approximately 30 years ago and now wishes to dispose of this personal asset. We know of nothing which prevents a judge from disposing of his/her property; and none of the methods suggested by the judge as to how this may be accomplished is objectionable. Thus, the judge may sell, consign, auction, or otherwise liquidate the collection, as suggested in the inquiry.