Opinion: 00-51

May 4, 2000

Digest:  A judge should not permit local fraternal organizations to raise funds to enable the judge to travel to China as part of a "criminal law leaders delegation" that is studying the criminal justice system in China.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.4(A)(2);


            A part-time village justice has been invited to participate as a member of a delegation of attorneys and law educators that will be visiting the People's Republic of China to study, discuss and exchange ideas concerning the criminal justice system of China. The event is sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Justice. The inquirer asks whether various fraternal organizations in the judge's community are permitted to raise funds to pay for the trip if the judge does not personally participate in such fund-raising activities.

            The Committee is of the opinion that the judge should not permit such fund-raising to take place. The funds raised will constitute a gift to the judge. None of the exceptions to the prohibition against acceptance of a gift, as set forth in sections 100.4(D)(4)(a)-(h) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct applies. Further, such a campaign, albeit organized by others, would "detract from the dignity of judicial office" (22 NYCRR 100.4[A][2]), and would diminish the independence of the judiciary in violation of section 100.1 of the Rules. Accordingly, the judge should not permit the fund-raising to take place.