March 10, 2005
Digest: A judge may attend dinners and meetings of the Center for Security policy, a non-profit organization involved in matters of national public policy, but may not serve the organization as an officer, director, or in any other capacity.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1), (2), (3),Opinions 98-137 (Vol. XVII); 96-10 (Vol. XIV).
The inquiring judge is requesting an opinion concerning whether he/she can attend meetings or serve in any capacity with an organization known as Center for Security Policy. The organization is non-profit, non-partisan and is committed to the philosophy of promoting peace through international strength.
The Committee has several concerns concerning involvement by a judge in certain policies that are being promoted. We note in particular that the organization states that it has opposed and often stopped what it considers “ill-advised nominations to key government posts.”
It is axiomatic that a judge’s extra judicial activities should not cast doubt on his/her impartiality, detract from the dignity of the office or interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties. 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1), (2), (3). A judge should not maintain membership in an organization that advocates controversial political policies. Opinion 98-137 (Vol. XVII). Nor may a judge be involved with a political committee. Opinion 96-10 (Vol. XIV).
The Committee believes that active membership in the organization described might interfere with the proper performance of the judge’s duties in that the judge may become enmeshed in political issues concerning matters of non-judicial public policy, and in the appointment of various governmental officials.
However, the organization is not a political party. Thus, the Committee does not view the judge’s attendance at dinners or meetings of the organization as an ethical breach so long as he/she does not solicit funds and does not lend his/ her name to fund-raising efforts; and as long as the judge is not publicly linked to particular public policy positions.