October 6, 2009
This responds to your inquiry (09-146) in which you ask whether, as a Town Justice, it is permissible to be a founder or member of an autonomous club or association, specifically an association of motorcycle enthusiasts of a particular religious faith.
It is ethically permissible for you to be a founding member and to serve as a member and/or officer of a fraternal or social recreational organization provided such participation does not interfere with your judicial duties and it is not likely the organization will be regularly involved in litigation. However, you are prohibited from soliciting funds for the club or association (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C]; see also Opinions 03-129, 93-10 and 90-08, enclosed for your convenience).
Moreover, the organization must comply with 22 NYCRR 100.2(D) which prohibits a judge from participating in an organization which “practices invidious discrimination.” While there is a religious component to your organization, this rule “does not prohibit a judge from holding membership in an organization that is dedicated to the preservation of religious, ethnic, cultural, or other values of legitimate common interest to its members.” Enclosed is Opinion 96-82 which addresses this issue and is instructive about compliance with Section 100.2(D).
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow
Justice of the Supreme Court (Ret.)