September 19, 1988
Topic: Judges participating in a charitable fundraising event sponsored by county bar associations.
Diqest: It would be improper for any judge to participate in a fundraising event, even if it is under the sponsorship of a local bar association.
Rule: 22 NYCRR §I00.5 (b)(2).
A county judge has inquired whether it would be appropriate for him and other members of the judiciary to participate in a musical or comedy skit as part of an annual “follies” co-sponsored by a county bar association and a women's bar association. The proceeds of the event would be utilized for scholarships or donated to a local charity.
Section 100.5(b)(2) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts states:
No judge shall solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of the office for that purpose, but may be listed as an officer, director or trustee of such an organization; provided, however, that no such listing shall be used in connection with any solicitation of funds. No judge shall be speaker or the guest of honor at an organization's fundraising events, but he or she may attend such event. Nothing in this Part shall be deemed to prohibit a judge from being a speaker or guest of honor at a bar association function.
A county judge was recently admonished by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for participating in a mock trial staged to raise funds for the American Heart Association. The judge sought review of that determination, arguing that he solicited no funds directly. In affirming the State Commission's determination, the Court of Appeals wrote:
“Although petitioner did not actually engage in the raising or soliciting of funds, nevertheless, his role was clearly a part of the overall fundraising effort. We conclude, therefore, that the petitioner violated both the letter and the spirit of section 100.5(b)(2) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, which prohibits judges from soliciting funds for charitable organizations or using the prestige of their office for that purpose.” Matter of Harris, ____ N.Y.2d ___(July 6, 1988).
Therefore, the judge should not participate in the proposed fundraising activity described in the inquiry.
This opinion is advisory only and does not bind either the Office of Court Administration or the Commission on Judicial Conduct.