Opinion: 98-149
December 3, 1998
Digest:    A judge may accept membership in the American Trial Lawyers Association.

Rule:       22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3);
                Opinions 98-50; 89-116 (Vol. IV); 88-106 (Vol. II).


            A judge has recently received an offer from the American Trial Lawyers Association for a free judicial membership in the organization, and asks whether membership in this organization would be proper. As stated by the judge:

            . . . many people view ATLA as a plaintiffs lawyers association.
            I am not sure this is a correct view, but I know that they are heavily
            involved in lobbying activities. On the other hand, I would assume
            that the American Bar Association and the New York State Bar
            Association also lobby to some degree.

            The American Trial Lawyers Association is clearly a bar association, and that status is in no way diminished by the fact that its primary focus and concern are purported to be the rights and interests of plaintiffs in personal injury litigation. As the Committee stated in Opinion 98-50:

            Nothing set forth in the inquiry indicates that the American Trial Lawyers Association is anything other than an organization composed of members of the bar "devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system and the administration of justice . . ." [22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)]. Membership in such an organization is therefore permitted. And the fact that the organization may engage in lobbying in support of a particular point of view, does not affect the propriety of judicial membership in the organization. Of course, the nature and extent of a judge's participation in the activities of the Association may well be subject to ethical limitations. See e.g. Opinion 88-100 (Vol. II) [A judge should not participate in a bar association's rating of judicial candidates; also Opinion 89-116 (Vol. IV).]. But no such questions are presented to the Committee. In short, the judge may accept membership in the American Trial Lawyers Association.