April 28, 1998
Digest: A judge may contribute to the local Police Benevolent Association as well as to local volunteer ambulance and firefighter organizations.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1); Opinions: 95-131(Vol. XIV), 89-146(Vol. III)
A judge asks if it is proper to contribute to the local Police Benevolent Association as well as to local volunteer ambulance and firefighter organizations.
Clearly, there is no impropriety committed when the judge merely contributes to a bona-fide civic, charitable, or fraternal organization serving the local volunteer ambulance corps or firefighter organization. However, the local Police Benevolent Association represents police officers who regularly appear before the judge as witnesses and/or representatives of the People in a prosecutorial capacity and therefore, the judge's inquiry regarding contributions to the PBA merits further discussion.
In Opinion 89-46(Vol. III) the Committee determined that a judge may contribute to a legal services organization even if the organization sometimes represents litigants in the judge's court ("... it is of no moment from an ethical point of view that this organization sometimes appears representing litigants in the judge's court.")
Likewise, in Opinion 95-131(Vol. XIV), the Committee advised that it was ethically permissible for a judge to make a contribution to the Legal Aid Society. That is, "the mere making of such a contribution does not in any way cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge (22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1))."
It is therefore the opinion of this Committee that a judge may similarly contribute to the local Police Benevolent Association, even if the local police, who may be members of that group, regularly appear in the judge's court.