December 9, 2010
Digest: A judge may serve on a non-partisan committee that provides a reception to welcome and recognize United States military personnel returning from service in combat zones.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.2(C); 100.4(C)(3); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(I), (iv); 100.5(A)(1); Opinions 07-134; 98-145 (Vol. XVII).
A judge asks whether he/she may participate as a leader or member of a committee to host receptions to “provide a sincere welcome and thanks” to members of the United States military who are returning from active combat service. The judge states that the committee is non-partisan, that “[n]o political speeches” would be permitted at the reception, and that he/she would not participate in any solicitation of money or donations for the reception. The judge further notes that he/she would be involved solely as a volunteer and without reference to his/her judicial capacity.
A judge must avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always act to promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). Although judges must not engage in any political activity except as the Rules expressly permit (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A]), a judge may be a member or serve as an officer of a civic organization not conducted for profit, subject to limitations (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C]). For example, a judge may not personally participate in soliciting funds or in other fund-raising activities, or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][I], [iv]; see also 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).
The Committee has previously advised that a judge may serve on a committee of citizens formed to honor the veterans of his/her town, where the committee is not involved in fund-raising activities or politics (see Opinion 07-134 [noting that the judge would not be identified as a judge on any committee publications]). Similarly, a judge may serve on a committee formed to create a memorial to honor the veterans in his/her town, as long as the judge does not personally solicit funds or otherwise raise funds with or for the organization (see Opinion 98-145 [Vol. XVII]).
Likewise, the Committee concludes that a judge may also be a member or leader of the non-partisan veteran welcoming committee described in the present inquiry, as long as he/she does not participate in any partisan political or fund-raising activities (see Opinions 07-134; 98-145 [Vol. XVII]).