March 14, 1988
Topic: Judge serving as co-chairman of a religious group’s Dinner Committee.
Digest: A judge may serve as co-chairman and master of ceremonies of a dinner sponsored by a religious organization when no fund-raising takes place at the dinner and where the judge will in no way be involved, nor his name used, in connection with the separate fundraising journal published in conjunction with the dinner, and where the dinner ticket price does not include a fundraising premium.
Rules: 100.5 (b) (ii); Canon 4B
A judge asks whether he may serve as the co-chairman of the Dinner Committee for the annual dinner sponsored by a religious group when no fundraising takes place at the dinner at which he will act as master of ceremonies, and, while a journal, for the purpose of raising funds, will be published in conjunction with the dinner, neither the judge, nor his name, will in any way be involved or used in solicitations for such journal.
The extent to which a judge may participate in civic and charitable activities, and the limitations on fundraising in connection therewith, are set forth with specificity in Rule 100.5(b) (ii) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator as follows:
Civic and Charitable activities: A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties. A judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or nonlegal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members, subject to the following limitations:
(1) A judge shall not serve if it is likely that the organization will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before him or her or will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court.
(2)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 a speaker or the guest of honor at an organization’s fundraising events, but he or she may attend such events. Nothing in this Part shall be deemed to prohibit a judge from being a speaker or guest of honor at a bar association function.
In this case, the inquiry indicates that no fundraising will occur at the dinner itself, and this opinion is rendered on the further assumption, although not expressly stated in the letter, that the price of tickets to the event does not include a fundraising premium. Clearly, under the aforenoted rule, the judge could serve as a chairman and/or speaker at a non-fundraising dinner.
The real problem here is whether a different result must ensue because a fundraising journal is separately being prepared in conjunction with the dinner. In the ordinary course such journals are compiled many months before and the solicitations for ads are largely directed to people who do not attend the dinner, with the completed printed journal being distributed at the dinner. In this case the judge would have no involvement in the preparation of the journal nor would his name in any way be used in the course of the solicitation of ads or the raising of funds.
While this is a close question, since technically the journal is published in conjunction with the dinner, the judge’s complete attenuation from any of those activities, both personally and with regard to non-use of his name, and the fact that no fundraising activities will take place at the dinner itself, appear to make this a case which falls just within the boundaries of permissible conduct under the controlling rules. To hold to the contrary would be to place an unduly stringent construction on a rule which permits judges to participate and hold office in civic, religious, charitable, fraternal and educational activities so long as they do not participate in actual fundraising or solicitation of funds.
This Opinion is advisory only and is not binding upon either the Office of Court Administration or the Commission on Judicial Conduct.