Opinion 08-20

January 31, 2008


Digest:         A part-time judge may participate in a church-sponsored mission to Africa, where the sponsoring church will pay the expenses, so long as the judge does not participate in fund-raising events or lend the prestige of judicial office to any such efforts.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.4(A); 100.4[C][3][b][i],[iv]; 100.4(H)(1)(b); 100.6(B)(1); Opinions 06-49; 00-100 (Vol. XIX); 98-56 (Vol. XVI).


         A part-time judge asks whether it is permissible to participate in a church-sponsored trip to Africa to work and minister at an orphanage. According to the judge, church members - but not the judge in any way - will raise the funds necessary to pay the expenses of those who will travel to Africa.

         The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provide that a judge must conduct all extra-judicial activities so that they do not: (1) cast reasonable doubt on the judges 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]).

         The Committee previously concluded that a full-time judge may participate in: 1) a trip to Africa, financed by a third party sponsor, to observe elections (see Opinion 98-56 [Vol. XVI]); 2) a legal seminar in another country financed by a non-profit group (see Opinion 00-100 [Vol. XIX]); and 3) a mission to Israel with his/her expenses reimbursed by a non-profit organization (see Opinion 06-49).

         Thus, the judge here may likewise participate in a church-sponsored trip to Africa to work and minister at an orphanage. He/she may assist church members in planning fund-raising activities, but may not personally participate in any such activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][i]), or lend his/her name to, or use the prestige of judicial office for, fund-raising (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][iv]).

         Expense reimbursements for full-time judges are limited to the actual cost of travel, food and lodging reasonably incurred by the judge. Any payment in excess of such an amount is compensation that may be subject to reporting requirements set forth in the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[H][1][b]). Part-time judges, however, are not subject to the same limitations and reporting requirements (see 22 NYCRR 100.6[B][1]).