Opinion: 98-15
March 12, 1998
Digest:     A judge may serve as an announcer and photographer at a high school wrestling tournament, sponsored by the high school and the Rotary Club, provided the judge does not participate in the fund-raising aspects of the event.

Rules:    22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii),(iv)
               Opinions: 96-59(Vol. XIV)


            A Village Justice, who is also a member of the local chapter of the Rotary Club, has been asked by the local high school to serve as an announcer of wrestling matches and to take photographs of the weight class champions at a high school wrestling tournament to be held at the gymnasium. The tournament is hosted by the Rotary Club and the high school.

            There is a small admission fee charged at the door. The cost of the admission includes a written program, and, after expenses, is expected to produce, at most, a minimal surplus. The Rotary Club, also hosts booths at the event that sell food and other items intended to generate a surplus.

            The judge asks if whether serving as a match announcer and photographer under these circumstances, is ethically permissible.

            The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibit a judge from using the prestige of judicial office for fund raising purposes and thus a judge may not be a speaker or guest of honor at a charitable organization's fund-raising event, or participate in the solicitation of contributions, although the judge may attend such events. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii)and (iv).

            In interpreting such limitations, the Committee has acknowledged that a judge could be a participant in such events provided that there is adherence to the strictures against solicitation or being a speaker or an advertised honoree [See e.g., Opinion 96-59(Vol. XIV]. In the Committee's view, the fact that the inquirer might, of necessity, be required to speak as an announcer/ photographer for the wrestling portion of the event, where no active fund-raising is taking place, does not mean that the judge becomes a "speaker", so as to invoke the prohibition.

            The judge, however, must take care not to become a participant in the solicitation of funds. For example, the judge should not encourage attendees to spend money at the fund-raising booths, nor may the judge serve at any booth where fund-raising is taking place. Further, the judge must not allow his or her name or position as judge to be listed or utilized in any announcements or invitations regarding the event.