September 12, 1989
Digest: A judge may not be the honorary chair of a charitable fundraising arts festival regardless of how the proceeds are raised, and even if the public is admitted free and the judge's name is omitted from the monetary solicitations sent to participating vendors.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.5(b)(2), CJC Canon 5B(2)
A judge inquires whether it is permissible to accept an invitation to be honorary chair of an arts festival committee whose primary purpose is to raise funds for a local charitable organization. The Committee on Judicial Ethics was advised by the judge that the fundraising will come from the rent paid by art dealers for a space at the festival; the judge's name will not appear in any literature sent to invite vendors to participate, but it will appear in literature designed to invite members of the public to attend, and the public will be admitted to the festival free of charge.
The rules cited herein above flatly forbid any judge from being a “speaker or the guest of honor at an organization’s fundraising events...” 22 NYCRR §100.5(b)(2); see also CJC Canon 5B(2). The facts that the judge’s name will be omitted from written solicitation to vendors and that the public will be admitted free of charge do not change the primary mission of the activity, i.e., to raise money for a local charitable entity. The rule’s letter and spirit would be violated by the judge’s accepting the honorary position because the judge’s name and the prestige of office clearly are being sought to be used to benefit a private charitable effort. While many may believe that the rule’s application to the instant situation is unduly restrictive, its language is direct and free of ambiguity.