Opinion 89-139

December 5, 1989


Digest:         A judge may serve as chair of the committee on law for a fraternal order provided that his duties do not require the judge to give legal advice to the organization or to any of its members.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.5(b); Canon 5B of the Code of Judicial Ethics


         A Supreme Court Justice asks whether he may accept a position as chair of a committee on law for a fraternal order of which the judge has been a member for many years. The judge states that the committee reports upon proposed amendments of the constitution and statutes of the organization and gives advice to the leadership of the organization about claims against the order, and matters relating to its rituals and practices as they may conflict with some statute, rule, or regulation of a particular jurisdiction.

         Section 100.5(b) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator provides in part:


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.

         The judge may accept the position of chair of the law committee, provided that his duties are restricted to intra-organizational matters and the inner workings of the fraternal order. As chair, the judge may not give legal advice or opinions relating to claims against the organization and possible conflicts between the organization’s activities and statutes, rules or regulations, since section 100.5(b) prohibits a judge from acting as a legal advisor to a fraternal organization.