September 11, 2009
Digest: A judge may accept a piece of artwork on behalf of the Unified Court System and display it in the courtroom after obtaining his/her administrative judge’s approval to do so.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); Opinion 93-42 (Vol. XI).
A judge asks whether he/she may accept a piece of artwork for the courtroom as a donation from a charitable foundation. The judge advises that the charitable foundation was first created by a banking institution, but no longer receives any funding from that institution. The judge also advises that he/she will accept the gift on behalf of the Unified Court System.
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]).
The Committee previously has advised that a town justice may, on behalf of the town, accept a recording system for the court from a district attorney’s office (see Opinion 93-42 [Vol. XI]). In the Committee’s view, as the gift would be made to the town and not to the judge personally, it was ethically permissible for the judge to accept the gift (see id.).
Assuming that the judge in the present inquiry will accept the artwork on behalf of the Unified Court System and that it will be the property of the Unified Court System, the same is true in the present inquiry as well. Therefore, the inquiring judge may accept the artwork on behalf of the Unified Court System and display it in the courtroom, but only after obtaining his/her administrative judge’s approval to do so.