September 14, 2000
(1) A judge may not serve as chair or member of the legislative subcommittee
of the Board of Directors of a non-profit hospital, even where the review
of legislation is solely for purposes of discussion within the hospital.
(2) A judge may serve as a contingent trustee for the estate of an uncle
with whom the judge maintains a close familial relationship.
22 NYCRR 100.0(I); 100.4(C)(3); 100.4(E)(1).
A full-time judge who serves on the board of directors of a not-for-profit hospital asks whether the judge may serve as chair of the board's legislative subcommittee. The legislative subcommittee reviews legislation solely for purposes of discussion within the hospital, and its views on such legislation are not publicly disseminated.
Section 100.4(C)(3) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provides that a judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, cultural, fraternal or civic organization not conducted for profit. Here, in light of the fact that the review and discussion of legal issues is the sole purpose of the legislative subcommittee, the judge would be essentially serving as a legal advisor to the hospital. This is not permissible. It is the Committee's opinion, therefore, that the judge should not serve on the hospital's legislative subcommittee as chair or as a subcommittee member.
The judge also asks whether the judge may serve as a contingent trustee for the future estate of a "very close uncle." The judge's uncle is the surviving spouse of the judge's maternal aunt. Pursuant to section 100.4(E)(1) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, a full-time judge may not serve as executor, administrator or other personal representative, trustee, guardian, attorney in fact or other fiduciary, "except for the estate, trust or person of a member of the judge's family," (or on behalf of a person with whom the judge had a longstanding personal relationship of trust and confidence, provided that the Chief Administrator of the Courts consents). Under Section 100.0(I) of the Rules, a relative or person with whom the judge "maintains a close familial relationship" is considered a member of the judge's family. 22 NYCRR 100.0(I). Given the description of the relationship in the inquiry, it appears that the uncle is to be deemed a member of the judge's family and therefore the judge may serve in the fiduciary capacity of contingent trustee.