Opinion 11-37

April 28, 2011


Digest:         A judge who accepts a previously unannounced award at a charitable fund-raiser may thereafter also be included in a photograph of award recipients at the event and need not object to publication of the photograph in a local newspaper.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i)-(ii), (iv); Opinions 06-105; 05-42; 04-141; 01-51.


         A judge who plans to accept a previously unannounced award at a charitable fund-raising event as one of a number of such recipients asks whether he/she may make brief thank-you remarks and be photographed at the event with the other awardees. The judge expects a local newspaper to publish the photographs after the event.

         A judge must avoid impropriety and its appearance in all the judge’s activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.2), and must always act to promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). Although a judge may not personally solicit funds (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][i]) or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][iv]), a judge may attend fund-raising events for not-for-profit educational, religious, charitable, cultural, fraternal or civic organizations and may accept an award that is unadvertised and ancillary to the event (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][ii]).

         This Committee has previously advised that, when accepting an unadvertised award ancillary to an organization’s fund-raising event (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][ii]; Opinion 01-51), a judge may make brief thank-you remarks (see Opinions 05-42; 04-141).

         Although the judge may not be named beforehand in the event’s promotional material (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][ii], [iv]; Opinion 05-42), it is the Committee’s view that during and after the event, the judge need not conceal the fact that he/she has, as permitted by the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct and prior Opinions, accepted an award from a charitable organization (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][ii]; Opinion 05-42; cf. Opinion 06-105 [a judge who is participating in a permissible extra-judicial activity is not required to hide his/her identity as a judge]). Thus, a judge who has properly accepted an award at a charitable fund-raiser may also be photographed at the event with the other recipients, even if the photograph will be published in a local newspaper.