Opinion 13-87

June 13, 2013


Digest:         A judge may be one of several board members honored at a not-for-profit organization’s fund-raising event, provided that the judge’s participation is not advertised before the event. The judge may also provide names of individuals for the organization to invite to the event and may identify contacts who may be interested in a fund-raising leadership role, provided the judge instructs the organization not to use or refer to the judge’s name in the solicitation.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.4(A)(1)-(3); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i)-(ii), (iv); Opinions 11-107; 11-66; 11-37; 06-69; 05-66.


         A judge who is a long-time board member of a not-for-profit community, civic, or charitable organization asks whether he/she may agree to be honored for his/her lengthy service, along with other similarly situated board members, at a fund-raising benefit for the organization. The judge also asks whether he/she may, at the organization’s request, “provide names of family, friends and colleagues” that the judge would like the organization to invite to the event and “ear-mark any contact who may be interested in taking on a leadership role as a member of the dinner committee, a sponsor, or a purchaser of a table.”

         A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). Thus, a judge must conduct all of his/her extra-judicial activities so that they do not (1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge; (2) detract from the dignity of judicial office; or (3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not incompatible with judicial office (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A][1]-[3]). Subject to these and other limitations, a judge may serve as a director of a not-for-profit civic or charitable organization (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3]). As relevant here, a judge may assist such an organization in planning fund-raising and may participate in the management and investment of the organization’s funds but must not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][i]). Moreover, a judge may not be a speaker or the guest of honor at the organization’s fund-raising events, except that a judge may attend such events and may accept an unadvertised award ancillary to the event (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][ii]). Finally, a judge shall not use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising or membership solicitation but may be listed as a director on the organization’s regular letterhead (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][iv]).

         The inquiring judge may agree to be honored at the organization’s fund-raising event, provided his/her participation is not advertised prior to the event (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][ii]; Opinions 11-107; 11-37). Also, the judge’s name must not be listed on invitations or announcements of the event.

         The Committee has previously advised that a judge may assist a school in fund-raising by suggesting names for the mailing list, but “may not be named as the referrer” (Opinion 11-66). Similarly, a judge who is a member of the board of a non-profit cultural organization may give the organization names of potential contributors and potential board members but may not permit the use of the judge’s name in any such solicitation (see Opinion 05-66; see also Opinion 06-69 [a judge may recommend potential individuals to serve as co-chairs of a law school fund-raising event, though he/she may not personally recruit such individuals]). Here, too, the judge may provide names of people that the judge would like the organization to invite to the organization’s fund-raising event and may identify contacts who may be interested in joining the dinner committee, or being a sponsor of the event or a purchaser of a table, provided the judge ensures “that there is no use of the judge’s name in connection with the solicitation except on a regular letterhead as permitted by section 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iv)” (Opinion 05-66; see also Opinion 11-66 [judge must not be named as the referrer]).