July 8, 2011
This responds to your inquiry (11-28) asking whether it is ethically permissible for you to apply to a local charitable foundation for a grant or to accept the offer of a local attorney to “explore steps to raise ... money” for the purpose of preserving and displaying historical photographs in the courthouse.
In Opinion 09-167, the Committee advised that a judge may accept a donated piece of artwork for the courtroom, but only on the Unified Court System’s behalf. Therefore, you also may accept the local attorney’s offer to explore ways to raise money to preserve and display historical photographs in the courthouse. However, because the Chief Administrative Judge is responsible for maintaining court facilities (see Judiciary Law §212[u]) and is designated the state’s agent to accept any grant or gift for the purpose of carrying out his/her responsibilities (see Judiciary Law §212[n]), you should consult with your administrative judge to determine what, if any, administrative procedures you must follow to engage in this project.
While the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct permit a judge to make recommendations to public and private fund-granting organizations on projects and programs concerning the law, the legal system or the administration of justice (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][iii]), they prohibit judges from personally participating in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][I]). Consequently, you are not permitted to personally apply for grant funds to preserve and display historical photographs in the courthouse. The Committee suggests that you consult with your Administrative Judge to determine how such grant funds can be solicited to benefit the courthouse.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 09-167 and 95-88, which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)