Opinion 08-136

                                                 February 19, 2009

Dear Justice :

         This responds to your inquiry (08-136) in which you ask the Committee whether the recent amendment to §805-b of the General Municipal Law, which deleted the terms “gift” and “benefit” and inserted the terms “fee” and “compensation,” now permits you to charge a fee to solemnize a marriage. In the past, you understood that you could not solicit the gratuity or honorarium the statute then permitted.


         The Committee is charged with issuing advisory opinions to judges and justices of the Unified Court System concerning issues related to ethical conduct, proper execution of judicial duties, and possible conflicts between private interests and official duties (see 22 NYCRR 101.1). As the question you have asked calls for determining the legislature’s intent when it amended §805-b of the General Municipal Law, it is legal in nature and therefore beyond the Committee’s jurisdiction (see id.). However, if the statute is interpreted by a recognized, official authority to lawfully permit you to charge a fee to perform a wedding ceremony, you would then be ethically permitted to do so (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[B][1]).

                                                 Very truly yours,

                                                 George D. Marlow

                                                 Justice of the Supreme Court

                                                 Committee Chair