April 29, 1999
A judge may make a charitable contribution to an affiliate of Catholic
Charities that operates a revolving cash bail fund on behalf of defendants.
22 NYCRR 100.4 (A)(1);
Opinions 88-27 (Vol. I);
95-131 (Vol. XIII).
A judge inquires whether it is permissible to make a charitable contribution to an entity known as "Jail Ministry," which is affiliated with Catholic Charities. The organization operates a revolving cash bail fund on behalf of defendants. On rare occasions, the judge is called upon to issue an order remitting a bail forfeiture of funds posted by the "Jail Ministry" and is seeking guidance relative to the propriety of making contributions, given the possibility of judicial involvement with the organization.
Judges may, of course, contribute to a variety of charitable organizations. See e.g., Opinion 88-27 (Vol. I). Specifically, in Opinion 95-131 (Vol. XIII), this Committee approved the making of a contribution to the Legal Aid Society even though the possibility existed that attorneys from that organization might appear before the judge. As stated by the Committee, "The mere making of such a charitable contribution does not in any way cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge."
Here, too, the Committee concludes that it is ethically permissible for the judge to make a contribution to the "Jail Ministry," notwithstanding its involvement with the judicial system. That is, the making of such a contribution, in our opinion, would not cast doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge and therefore would not violate section 100.4(A)(1) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. 22 NYCRR 100.4(A)(1).