April 27, 2006
Digest: A judge may participate in a mission to Israel which consists of a group of judges and is sponsored by a not-for-profit organization, and may accept reimbursement for the cost of participating, subject to any applicable reporting requirements set forth in the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4(A); 100.4(H)(1); 100.4(H)(1)(b), (2); Opinion 01-82 (Vol. XX).
A judge asks whether it is ethically permissible to participate in a mission to Israel which consists of a group of judges. The mission will be sponsored by a non-for-profit organization that will reimburse the judge for the majority of the expenses incurred while participating in the mission.
Participants will attend meetings with members of the Israeli bench and bar to discuss issues relevant to the judiciaries of Israel and the United States. In addition, they will attend meetings with members of the Knesset Judiciary Committee, the Supreme Court, Israel’s Attorney General, members of the Israeli bar association, and with Israeli jurists. The scheduled briefings and meeting will expose participating judges to the social, cultural, security and economic aspects of Israel.
A judge must conduct all of the judge’s extra-judicial activities so that they do not: (1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge; (2) detract from the dignity of judicial office; or (3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not incompatible with judicial office. 22 NYCRR 100.4(A).
In our opinion, the particular extra-judicial activity the inquirer describes does not appear to contravene any of the proscriptions or limitations set forth in the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. In Opinion 01-82 (Vol. XX), this committee advised that a judge could participate in a group solidarity mission to Israel that was sponsored by a charitable and philanthropic organization. Because the sponsoring entity in the present inquiry is also a not-for-profit organization, and because it is not likely that the organization will appear in the judge’s court, the judge here may participate in the described mission.
The judge may accept reimbursement for the expenses incurred in connection with the trip. 22 NYCRR 100.4(H)(1). Should the judge receive reimbursement in an amount exceeding the actual cost of travel, food and lodging by more than $150, however, the judge must detail the excess amount in a report, to be filed as a public document in the office of the clerk of the judge’s court. 22 NYCRR 100.4(H)(1)(b), (2).