Opinion 96-129

December 12,1996


Digest:         A judicial association may endorse another group whose goal is to better the quality of life of children, provided that there is no likelihood of an involvement in adversarial proceedings and there is no fundraising aspect to such endorsement.


Rule:            22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3); Opinion 93-121


         A judge, who is a member of the Board of Directors of a national judicial association, asks whether it is appropriate for this board to endorse another group whose purpose is to better the quality of life of all children in the United States; and further, whether it is appropriate for each board member to individually assume the responsibility for one child and to assist that one child in a variety of ways in the community.

         Section 100.4(C)(3) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct states:


(3) A judge may be a member or serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or administration of justice or of an educational, religious, charitable, cultural, fraternal or civic organization not conducted for profit, subject to the following limitations and the other requirements of this Part.

         The limitations referred to are set forth in subparagraph (a)(i) and (ii):


(a) A judge shall not serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor if it is likely that the organization (i) will be engaged in proceedings that ordinarily come before the judge, or (ii) if the judge is a full-time judge, will be engaged regularly in adversary proceedings in any court.

         These prohibitions could impact on any judge seated in a Family Court setting and could require judges in other courts to determine, on a case by case basis, whether this relationship would give the appearance of impropriety, reflect adversely upon impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties.

         The judge must also be mindful of those sections of the rules, namely subparagraph (3)(b)(i) and (iv), of section 100.4(C)(3) which do not allow participation in fund-raising or the use of the judge's name or prestige for fund-raising and member solicitation.

         With the aforesaid caveats the judge's association may endorse the group in question. See Opinion 93-121.

         As to an individual board member assuming responsibility for a child, such a decision does not involve a question of judicial ethics.