September 7, 2006
Digest: A judge may not solicit volunteers to serve on the board of directors of a not-for-profit organization.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iv); Opinions 05-66; 98-119 (Vol. XVII).
A judge inquires as to whether it is permissible to participate in an initiative sponsored by a community-wide not-for-profit organization that promotes the positive development of children. The goal of the program is to prevent certain behavior among adolescents, such as substance abuse, delinquency, pregnancy and violence. Specifically, the judge’s role would be to identify and to recruit a “Key Leader Board.” The judge would invite community leaders to participate by sending personal invitations on the judge’s letterhead and by chairing the organizational meeting.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct set forth certain limitations on the activities in which a judge may engage on behalf of not-for-profit educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, civic or cultural organizations. Specifically, the Rules prohibit a judge from using or permitting the use of the prestige of judicial office for membership solicitation. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iv). Here, the judge has been asked to use his/her position as a judge, i.e., “a community leader having credibility and influence with key members of the community...,” to solicit board members. Such activity is prohibited. Thus, although the judge may give the organization the names of potential community leaders to serve on the board, the judge may not personally solicit community leaders to serve as board members. See Opinions 05-66; 98-119 (Vol. XVII).