Opinion 95-54

June 8, 1995


Digest:         A judge may permit a scholarship for law students to be established by a charitable organization, which scholarship would bear the judge’s name, where the charitable organization does not solicit funds on behalf of individually named scholarships but on behalf of its general scholarship fund, and only thereafter assigns such funds to individual scholarships.


Rule:            22 NYCRR 100.5(b)(2)


         A full-time judge asks whether it is ethically permissible to give permission to an ethnic charitable organization to establish a scholarship bearing the judge’s name. As stated by the judge:


That organization is not exclusively a legal organization, but includes members from various professions. The organization wishes to designate a scholarship in my name to be given to law students to assist them in pursuing their law school studies.


The organization has a number of other scholarships named for individual members and/or their relatives. It raises money for their general scholarship fund and in their fund-raising efforts do not designate the funds as being raised for any specific scholarship. After the scholarship funds are raised, the organization then assigns them to the individually names scholarship. Of course, I would not be involved in any fund-raising activities.

         At issue is the scope of section 100.5(b)(2) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator, which provides, in part, that “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 the purpose...”

         The inquiring judge acknowledges the obligation not to engage in fundraising. Thus, the question is whether the creation of a scholarship bearing the name of the judge and ultimately the disbursal of funds as an award of a scholarship bearing the judge’s name, constitute the use of the prestige of judicial office for the purpose of soliciting charitable contributions.

         In the view of the committee, the crucial factor is that the contributions solicited by the organization are on behalf of its general scholarship fund without regard to or designation for any particular scholarship. Only after the funds are raised is an assignment made to an individually named scholarship and presumably that decision is made by the organization, not the contributors. Thus, since contributors are contributing to a general fund, and not to a fund bearing the judge’s name, it does not appear that the prestige of judicial office is being used for the purpose of soliciting such charitable contributions. Accordingly, on the facts presented, the Committee sees no ethical objection in permitting a scholarship to be named after the inquiring judge.