Opinion: 99-130

September 14, 1999

Digest: A judge should not serve on the board of directors or steering committee of a Youth Court where the judge may be referring cases to the Youth Court, and is expected to actively engage in fund-raising on its behalf.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.2(A); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iv).


            A part-time judge has been asked to serve on the steering committee and board of directors of a Youth Court which is being established in the judge's county. Cases are referred to the Youth Court by "judges, police and probation departments." Among the judge's responsibilities would be the task of helping to "locate and obtain funds to maintain" the program.

            Based on the information provided, the Committee advises against serving on either the steering committee or the board of directors. The requirement and expectation of an active involvement in fund-raising places the judge in jeopardy of violating section 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, which states that a judge "shall not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities." 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i). Further, a judge is forbidden to "use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising . . ." 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iv).

            In addition, we note that cases are referred to the Youth Court by judges. If the inquiring judge declines to refer any cases to the Youth Court because of the judge's position with the organization, he/she may be doing a disservice to eligible defendants. On the other hand, if the judge is considering a referral of cases to the Youth Court it might be concluded that the judge is allowing his/her relationship with the Youth Court "to influence the judge's judicial conduct or judgment." 22 NYCRR 100.2(A).

            In short, we are of the opinion that in light of the expectations and role of the organization, serving on its board of directors or steering committee places the judge in an untenable position, and we therefore advise that the judge decline the invitation.