January 28, 1999
A judge may be a speaker and guest of honor at a court employee organization's
fund-raising event, but should not permit the organization to use the judge's
name and office in support of the fund-raising.
22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii), (iv).
The inquiring judge writes to the Committee on behalf of him/herself and another judge. Both judges are being honored by a county court employees association at its anniversary dinner dance, which is a fund-raising event. The proceeds of an advertising journal which is being published in connection with the event will be used to fund the organization's scholarship program. Further, the fact that the judges are being honored is cited in the organization's solicitation of journal advertisements. The question posed is whether the two judges may be honorees under such circumstances.
Prior to January 23, 1998, the answer of the Committee would have been "no." Section 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct bars a judge from being a speaker or guest of honor at an organization's fund-raising event. But the prohibition did not apply to bar association or law school functions or to the acceptance of an unadvertised award ancillary to another organization's fund-raising event. Thus, prior to January 23, 1998, the judges would have had to decline the invitation to speak and be honorees since this particular fund-raising event fits into none of the excluded categories.
However, effective January 23, 1998, section 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii) of the
Rules was amended. It now reads:
(b) A judge as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor, or a member or otherwise
. . .
(ii) may not be a speaker or the guest of honor at an organization's fund-raising event, but the judge may attend such events. Nothing in this subparagraph shall prohibit a judge from being a speaker or guest of honor at a court employee organization, bar association or law school function or from accepting at another organization's fund-raising event an unadvertised award ancillary to such event. (emphasis added)
It thus follows that a judge may now be a speaker or guest of honor at a court employee organization's fund-raising event. Accordingly, the two judges who are being honored at this particular event may attend, speak and accept the honor being bestowed.
Nonetheless, we note that in the letter soliciting ads the person in charge of coordinating the event states that the taking of an ad "is a wonderful way to show your support of the honored guests as well as the [name] County Court Employees." In our view, such use of the judges' names in this fashion might be perceived as permitting "the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising" in contravention of section 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iv) of the Rules, therefore the judges should advise the organization to cease referring to them in a way which connects the judges with the fund-raising aspect of the event.