June 12, 2003
Digest: A full-time judge may not serve as a justice for a fraternal organization adjudicating disputes between its members or between members and the organization.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.4(F); Opinions 96-76 (Vol. XIV); 92-123 (Vol. X).
The inquiring full-time judge is a member of a fraternal organization and asks whether it is ethically permissible to serve as a justice within the organization, hearing and deciding dispute between its members or between members and the organization. The judge’s rulings would presumably have consequences only within the organization.
Section 100.4(F) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibits a full-time judge from acting as an arbitrator or mediator, or to otherwise perform judicial functions in a private capacity unless expressly authorized by law. 22 NYCRR 100.4(F). The Committee has previously concluded that serving as a member of an ecclesiastical court [Opinion 96-76 (Vol. XIV)] or as a hearing officer in a church-related disciplinary hearing (Opinion 92-123 [Vol. X]) are prohibited by this Rule. The result is the same in the present inquiry. Although the judge’s rulings would be effective only within the organization, the judge would be performing judicial functions in a private capacity, which is expressly prohibited by section 100.4(F).