June 3, 2004
Digest: A judge’s mere purchase of a ticket to and attendance at a fund-raising dinner sponsored by the local Legal Aid Society, and a luncheon sponsored by a local District Attorney’s Advisory Council are ethically permissible activities.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.2(A); 100.5(A)(1); 100.5 (C)(3)(b)(ii). Opinions 95-131 (Vol. XIV); 98-37 (Vol. XVI).
A judge inquires about the propriety of attending a fund-raising dinner for the local Legal Aid Society and a non-fund-raising luncheon sponsored by the local District Attorney’s Advisory Council at which members of the community will be honored. The District Attorney’s Advisory Council is described as an unincorporated group of citizens from the public and private sector. The honorees include a recovering addict, a career 911 center employee, a decorated law enforcement officer and a local community -minded supermarket chain.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct allow a judge to attend fund-raising or non-fund-raising functions, of not-for-profit civic, charitable, fraternal, religious, educational or cultural organizations. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii). A judge, however, may not attend politically-sponsored events. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1). Neither event falls into the latter category.
This Committee has previously stated that it is permissible for a judge to contribute to the local Legal Aid Society. Opinion 95-131 (Vol. XIV). In light of the fact that the Legal Aid Society dinner is not politically-sponsored and that no appearance of impropriety arises from a judge’s contribution, it follows that, absent other factors, there is no appearance of impropriety or any reasonable questioning of the judge’s independence simply because the judge purchases a ticket to and attends an otherwise permissible fund-raising dinner. 22 NYCRR 100.2(A); 100.5(C)(3)(b)(ii).
Similarly, the composition of the District Attorney’s Advisory Council and the nature of the awards to be distributed render the Council more akin to a civic organization. Opinion 98-37 (Vol. XVI). Therefore, absent other factors, the judge’s mere purchase of a ticket to and attendance at this otherwise permissible function is not prohibited.