Opinion: 01-51

April 19, 2001

Digest:  A judge may accept an award at a religious organization's fund-raising dinner, where the award is unadvertised and ancillary to the event, and the judge is neither a speaker nor the guest of honor at the event.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii);
           Opinion 96-52 (Vol. XIV).


            A judge inquires whether the judge may attend and accept a "community service award" at the "Grand Annual Community Dinner" of a religious organization. The annual event which is a fund-raiser, honors individuals for community service. The award is totally unrelated to the judge's position, or any matter involving the judiciary. Moreover, and crucially, the award will be unadvertised and the judge will neither be a speaker nor the guest of honor.

            It is these latter circumstances that brings the matter within the exemption provided for in section 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct which states (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][ii]):

[A judge] may not be a speaker or the guest of honor at an organization's fund-raising events, 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.

            The organization in question is not a court employee organization, bar association or law school. Thus, the judge's participation is limited to the extent provided for in subparagraph (b)(ii): acceptance of the award provided that it is an "unadvertised award ancillary to such event."

            That is precisely the situation presented by the judge, who is neither a speaker nor a guest of honor, but solely the recipient of the unadvertised award ancillary to this event. Under such circumstances, the judge may accept the award. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(b)(ii); Opinion 96-52 (Vol. XIV).