June 7, 2007
Digest: A County Court judge may serve on the board of directors of a not-for-profit charity that provides services to orphans, foster children, and adults with disabilities, provided these activities do not conflict with the judge’s judicial duties; the judge will have no opportunity to make referrals to the organization; the organization will not be engaged regularly in adversarial proceedings in any court, or in proceedings that ordinarily would come before the judge; and provided the judge avoids any involvement in fund-raising on the organization’s behalf.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(3); 100.4(C)(3)(a)(i),(ii); 100.4(C)(3)(b); Opinions 07-02; 02-91; Joint Opinion 00-101 and 00-104 (Vol. XIX); Opinions 99-164 (Vol. XVIII); 98-10 (Vol. XVI); 97-134 (Vol. XVI); 92-103 (Vol. X); 89-143 (Vol. IV).
A County Court judge inquires whether he/she may be on the board of directors of a not-for-profit charity which provides residences, mental health services, and medical services to orphans, foster children, and adults with disabilities. The inquirer states that he/she “is aware of no circumstances under which the County Court and this organization could interact.”
In general, a full-time judge may serve as a director of a charitable non-profit organization, provided that such service does not conflict with the judge’s official duties and that it is unlikely that the organization “will be engaged regularly in adversary proceedings in any court,” or “in proceedings that ordinarily would come before the judge.” 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(3); 100.4(C)(3)(a)(i),(ii); 97-134 (Vol. XVI).
In Opinion 07-02, this Committee opined that a Family Court judge should not serve on the board of directors of an organization that provides therapeutic visitation services to parents who may be referred to the agency, directly or indirectly, by the Family Court judge. The Committee concluded that the likelihood of direct or indirect referrals to the organization would create a conflict, or at least the appearance of a conflict, between the judge’s adjudicative duties and his/her role as a board member. Opinion 07-02; see also Opinions 02-91 (judge may not serve as a director of organization that provides services to individuals who may be indirectly referred to the agency by the judge’s court); Joint Opinion 00-101 and 00-104 (Vol. XIX) (judge may not serve as a director of an organization that provides sentencing alternatives in the judge’s court or of a youth shelter that provides temporary shelter in bail matters); Opinions 98-10 (Vol. XVI) (drug treatment court judge may not serve as a director of one of the drug treatment facilities that is assigned cases by the courts); 89-143 (Vol. IV) (judge’s referral of cases to an organization precludes his/her service as a director of that organization).
The present inquiry involves a somewhat similar charitable organization, but the inquiry is from a County Court judge who does not foresee any circumstances under which the organization would appear in the County Court, or receive direct or indirect referrals from the County Court. Accordingly, the Committee concludes that there is no appearance of the type of conflict addressed in Opinion 07-02.
We thus conclude that under the circumstances presented, the judge may serve on the board of directors of the organization described, although he/she must not participate in any fund-raising activities on behalf of the organization. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b); Opinions 99-164 (Vol. XVIII); 92-103 (Vol. X).