April 15, 2003
Digest: A judge who is a member of the Board of Trustees of a library should not write a letter to a newspaper or make any other public statement in support of a ballot proposition that would secure funding for the library.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i); Opinions 95-02 (Vol. XIII); 00-33.
A judge who is a member of the Board of Trustees of a library that, due to funding cuts, is seeking to have a proposition included on the school ballot that would make the taxpayers of the school district financially responsible for the operating costs of the library. The judge asks whether it is ethically permissible to write a letter to a newspaper or to make any other kind of public statement in support of the proposition.
Subject to certain limitations, a judge may serve as an officer of a not-for-profit civic organization. Those limitations prohibit a judge from personally participating in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i). This Committee previously has concluded that a judge cannot, as president of the board of directors of a public library, chair or sit on the dias or otherwise participate in public meetings seeking support for a bond proposition to expand the library, as such activities would constitute fund-raising. Opinion 00-33. For the same reason, a judge is prohibited from encouraging legislation to appropriate funds for a library. Opinion 95-02 (Vol. XIII). Similarly, the activity proposed by the inquiring judge also would constitute fund-raising and, therefore, is impermissible.