December 14, 1995
Digest: A full-time judge may not serve as Education Leader of a delegation of a legal study group visiting a foreign country under the sponsorship of a commercial entity where (1) the judge’s expenses would be paid, (2) the judge’s spouse’s expenses would be paid depending on the number of people who participate in the trip; and (3) the judge’s name and title would be used to solicit participants.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2(c); 100.5(c)(1); Opinion 90-135.
A full-time judge has been asked to serve as an Education Leader on future legal study tours run by an organization called Corporation for Professional Conferences, Inc. The judge states that judges from other jurisdictions have served in that capacity. The tours consist of meetings with judges, attorneys and visits to courts and law schools inquiring in a particular foreign country.
As stated by the organization, “As Education Leader you would travel from the tours departure point as our guest, and should there be more than thirty registrations, your companion would also travel as our guest.”
Bases on the material provided, the Committee is of the view that the inquiring judge may not serve as Education Leader under the circumstances presented. The judge’s name and position are being used for the promotion of a commercial trip for which the judge receives compensation in the form of a free trip. Further, there is an incentive to promote the trip in that the judge can bring his/her spouse if there are 30 or more registrants.
The Committee addressed a virtually identical question in Opinion 90-135, where it was noted that section 100.5(c)(1) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct requires a judge to refrain from business and financial dealings that exploit the judge’s judicial position. Such exploitation is apparent in the instant matter and, further, the judge would be using the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the tour company. 22 NYCRR 100.2(c). Accordingly, the Committee is of the opinion that the inquirer may not accept the position of Education Leader on any future tour under the circumstances described.