Opinion: 97-28

March 13, 1997

Digest:  A judge may serve as a trustee of a non-profit service organization and as board member of a magazine published by it, provided no personal solicitation of funds is involved and such service will not interfere with performance of the judge's official duties or involve the judge in publicly expressing political positions or engaging in impermissible public commentary.

Rules:  22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1),(3); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i); 100.5


            A judge inquires concerning the propriety of participation as trustee of a non-profit service organization and as board member of a magazine published by the organization. The judge's function in both capacities is to develop policy and participate in oversight of its implementation.

            The judge states that no fund-raising activities will be involved since the organization maintains a professional staff and consultants who engage in the actual solicitation of funds. Further, the operation of the magazine will be by a publisher and production company selected by the organization.

            Section 100.4 of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provides in part:

(A) Extra-Judicial Activities in General. A judge shall conduct all of the judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do not:

(1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge;

(3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not incompatible with judicial office.
(C)(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 the 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.
(b) A judge as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor, or a member or otherwise:

(i) may assist such an organization in planning fund-raising and may participate in the management and investment of the organization's funds, but shall not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities;

            Based on the facts provided, it is the opinion of the Committee that the inquiring judge may serve both as trustee of the organization and member of the board of its magazine, provided neither will interfere with judicial duties. The judge may participate in development of policy and oversight both in the affairs of the organization and its magazine, including planning fund-raising, and the management and investment of organization funds.

            The judge, however, does have an ethical obligation to avoid engaging in political activity, directly or indirectly, or expressing views on controversial political and related issues that might "cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge," 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1); 100.5. The judge should therefore take great care to ensure that no partisan political positions or impermissible public commentary are expressed in the magazine that might be directly or indirectly attributable to the judge.