Opinion: 99-09

January 28, 1999

Digest: A judge may attend a judicial convention even if its programs are sponsored or underwritten by commercial entities, but may not solicit such sponsorship or the underwriting of any of the programs.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.4(C); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i).


            A judge who is a member of a committee planning a convention of judges to take place in 2001, notes that "(a)t previous conventions, held in other states, activities have been sponsored and underwritten by law-related businesses such as law firms, title companies and publishers of legal texts." The judge asks whether it is ethically permissible "to attend these programs or to solicit the participation of potential sponsors and underwriters."

            Clearly, there is no ethical objection to a judge attending programs that are part of a judicial convention, regardless of the fact that such programs may be sponsored or underwritten by a commercial entity. Solicitation of such support, however, is another matter. The Committee sees no substantive distinction between such solicitation and solicitation on behalf of any of the not-for-profit organizations enumerated in section 100.4(C)(3) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3). Judges are forbidden from personally participating "in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities" (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][i]) on behalf of such groups. Seeking the sponsorship or underwriting of the cost of an event falls within the category of fund-raising and should not be engaged in by the judge.