October 23, 2008
Digest: A judge may serve on a panel that will award annual student-athlete scholarships on behalf of a hospital’s community relations board provided the judge will not be involved in any fund-raising.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.4(A)(1) -(3); 100.4(C)(3); (100.4(C)(3)(b)(i); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iv); Opinions 06-112; 05-144; 90-120 (Vol. VI); 89-49 (Vol. III)
A judge asks whether he/she may serve on a panel that will award annual student-athlete scholarships on behalf of a hospital’s community relations board. The scholarships will be awarded at an annual dinner which is part of the board’s “biggest community and fund-raising project.”
A judge must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all the judge’s activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). A judge may participate in extra-judicial activities that 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 (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A]-). A judge may be a member of a charitable or civic organization not conducted for profit (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C]), may assist an organization in managing the organization’s funds, but must not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][i]). In addition, a judge must not use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising to advance the private interest of others (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][iv]).
In Opinion 06-112, the Committee advised that a judge may not serve on the scholarship committee of the not-for-profit charitable arm of a trade association, where the trade association and its arm are likely to be perceived as a single entity promoting the association’s commercial aims. Nor may a judge join a board created to establish a memorial college scholarship fund in memory of a particular individual where the sole purpose of the board is to raise money for the memorial scholarship fund (see Opinion 05-144). However, in the present inquiry, the judge’s only involvement with the hospital’s community relations board is to evaluate candidates nominated to receive a scholarship and to select the scholarship winners. He/she will spend approximately one day interviewing scholarship candidates and attend the scholarship awards dinner. Therefore, it does not appear that the judge’s participation on the scholarship award panel will either cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s ability to act impartially as a judge or conflict or interfere with the judge’s judicial duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A], ).
It is the Committee’s view, therefore, that the inquiring judge may serve on the panel that will award annual student-athlete scholarships on behalf of a hospital’s community relations board. However, as this scholarship is supported through fund-raising, the judge should make clear to the board that he/she is prohibited from “personally participat[ing] in the solicitation of funds or other fundraising activities” (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][i]) and that the board cannot use the judge’s name or judicial office for fund-raising purposes (see id.; Opinion 90-120 [Vol. VI]; 89-49 [Vol. III]).