October 23, 2003
Digest: Under the circumstances presented, a judge may contribute to a fund created on behalf of a Legal Aid Society attorney who has been seriously injured in an accident, even though that attorney has appeared before the judge.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1) Opinions 88-27 (Vol. I); 95-131 (Vol. XIV)
A judge inquires whether it is permissible to contribute to a fund created on behalf of a Legal Aid Society attorney who has been seriously injured in an automobile accident and who will be spending many months in rehabilitative therapy. The attorney who asked the judge to participate, as well as the attorney for which the fund has been established, routinely appear before the judge.
Judges may, of course, contribute to a variety of charitable organizations (See e.g., Opinion 88-27 (Vol. I). Specifically, in Opinion 95-131(Vol. XIV), the Committee advised that it was ethically permissible for a judge to make a contribution to the Legal Aid Society. As stated therein, "the mere making of such a contribution does not in any way cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge” 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1).
Accordingly, it is the opinion of this Committee that under the circumstances presented, a judge may similarly contribute to a fund established on behalf of a Legal Aid attorney, even if that attorney regularly appears in the judge's court.