March 14, 1988
Topic: Judicial membership in a religious and educational organization.
Digest: A judge may join and participate in an educational and religious organization provided the activities do not interfere with impartiality or involve the judge in fund-raising activities.
Rules: Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Section 100.5 of th Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts (22 NYCRR 100.5)
A judge inquires whether he may serve as an active member of an association known as the Jewish Attorneys Society of the Capital District which is an adjunct of the United Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York.
The many charitable and benevolent activities of the Federation are funded by active and extensive fund-raising activities. However, the sole purpose of the Society is to “develop a cohesiveness between Jewish attorneys in the Federation area, to pursue educational issues, to monitor significant legal developments as they relate to Federation purposes, to encourage the relationship among Jewish and non-Jewish attorneys in the area, and to foster relations between the Jewish community and the secular community at large”. The Society does not participate in any fund-raising activities either on its own or on behalf of the Federation.
Rule 100.5(b) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts provides that judges may participate in educational, fraternal and civic organizations provided that “it is unlikely 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.”
Subdivision (b)(2) further provides that the judge may be listed as an officer, director or trustee of an organization provided that such listing not be used in connection with the solicitation of funds. (See also Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, New York State Bar Association.)
Thus judges may join the Jewish Attorneys Society, attend its meeting and participate in appropriate discussions. They may serve as members of the executive steering committee; they may permit the listing of their names as officers, trustees, and committee chairpersons, on Society stationery, newsletters, bulletins, and directories; they may speak at Society programs, provided the subject is not one that could reflect adversely upon their objectivity and impartiality in their judicial function; and they may submit appropriate articles for publication.
All such activities should comply with Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which states that, “a judge should regulate his extra-judicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with his judicial duties, especially those relating to political or quasi-political activities or issues”.
This Opinion is advisory only and is not binding upon either the Office of Court Administration or the Commission on Judicial Conduct.