January 13, 2016
This responds to your inquiry (15-213) asking whether you may continue to serve as a board member and become the secretary for a not-for-profit charity that provides services to underprivileged children and families. You have indicated that the charity does not appear in your court but employs social workers who appear in another court and who meet with court resource coordinators from time to time.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct permit a judge to serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization not conducted for profit, subject to certain limitations (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C]). Indeed, the Committee previously has advised that “the community benefits from having judges take an active part in community affairs whenever possible” (Opinion 90-25). Thus, a judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2[A]; 100.4[A]-). However, a judge may not serve on a board of an organization to which he or she has the power to make referrals. Subject to this and other limitations described in the attached opinions, you are advised that you may serve on the board. In the event the organization appears before you as a party, witness or advocate, you must disqualify yourself, subject to remittal.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 10-119 and 90-25 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)