Opinion: 96-32

March 12, 1996




Digest:  A judge may recommend an attorney for membership on an 18-B panel, as long as the recommendation is personal and unofficial. A judge may attend the fund-raising event of a civic organization.
 

Rules:  22 NYCRR 100.2(C)
            100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii),
            100.4(D)(5).
            Opinions 93-129; 87-12(a).
 
 

Opinion:

            A justice of the Supreme Court inquires (1) whether he/she may write a letter of recommendation for an attorney who seeks admission to the 18-B and (2) whether he/she may attend a $50 per ticket dinner for an unidentified "not-for-profit corporation" which takes positions relating to the criminal law.

            With respect to the first inquiry, section 100.2(C), of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct forbids judges from lending the prestige of their office to advance the private interests of others. In the opinion of the Committee, this rule does not prohibit the judge from writing a letter of recommendation for an attorney who seeks admission to an 18B panel. We note that the 18B panel in question is not one to which the judge himself/herself makes appointments, and that the judge's familiarity with the attorney's professional work relates to the period of time preceding the judge's assuming judicial office. Under the circumstances presented there would be no appearance of impropriety (see generally; Opinion 93-129 [judge's recommendation of attorney for position on panel of arbitrators]). However, it should be made clear that the recommendation being made is personal and unofficial.

            With respect to the second inquiry, section 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii) states that a judge may attend (but in general not speak at) fund-raising event which benefit non-profit educational, religious, charitable, cultural, fraternal or civic organizations. The fact that the non-for-profit civic corporation described by the inquiring judge occasionally takes positions with respect to matters involving the administration of justice does not automatically warrant departure from the rule allowing attendance.

            The judge also inquires whether he/she may attend the dinner "as a guest". According to section 100.4(D)(5)(h), judges may accept gifts of less than $150 without compliance with the reporting requirements from any donor who "is not a party or other person who has come or is likely to come or whose interests have come or are likely to come before the judge". A judge may also accept "ordinary social hospitality" 22 NYCRR 100.4(D)(5)(C), although the application of this provision in the context of dinners, essentially depends on the lavishness or expense of the meal provided. See Opinion 87-12(a). Also, a judge may accept invitations to activities related to the improvement of the law. 22 NYCRR 100.4(D)(5)(a). Under the particular circumstances presented in the inquiry, the Committee believes that the judge may attend the dinner as a guest.