Opinion 15-123

June 11, 2015


Digest:         A part-time judge may become a member of a governmental advisory committee on services for senior citizens, but may not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or personally request non-members to solicit such funds.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.4(A)(1)-(3); 100.4(C)(2)(a); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(I), (iii)-(iv); 100.6(B)(1); Opinions 14-66; 12-142; 12-22; 11-70; 98-119 (Vol. XVII).


         A town justice asks if he/she may join a county government agency’s advisory committee on services for senior citizens. The committee includes seniors, agencies providing services to them, and members of the general public residing in municipalities in the county. Its goals include informing the county on programs and services for the elderly, suggesting improvements, and aiding to develop fund-raising to obtain matching state and federal funds for programs. The judge states committee members must write yearly letters “to their legislators requesting funding for the needs of their seniors” living within their respective towns. The chair has informed the judge that he/she may delegate these fund-raising duties to the town supervisor or a town board member.

         A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (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]). A judge’s extra-judicial activities must not be incompatible with judicial office, and also must not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge, detract from the dignity of judicial office, or interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A][1]-[3]). A part-time judge, unlike a full-time judge, may accept appointment to a governmental committee or commission that is concerned with fact or policy in matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][2][a]; 100.6[B][1]). However, no judge may use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][iv]) or personally participate in soliciting funds or other fund-raising activity (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][I]).1

         Here, the inquiring judge may become a member of the committee aiding senior citizens, but may not write annual letters to legislators to request funding, nor can the judge solicit non-committee members to write such letters (see Opinions 14-66 [a part-time judge who is also a high-level employee of county government must not personally participate in the solicitation of funds, but may manage other county employees who will engage in such solicitations on behalf of the county office or department for which the judge works]; 11-70 [a part-time judge who serves as paid or unpaid curator of the town museum must not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities]; 98-119 [Vol. XVII] [judge shall not solicit volunteers to solicit contributions]; 12-22 [judge may serve as executive director and board member of non-profit organization but may not personally solicit volunteers to serve on organization’s board or personally solicit volunteer guest teachers]; see generally Opinion 12-142 [judge who is president of non-profit organization may help plan organization’s fund-raising event but is prohibited from personally participating in the solicitation of funds and other fund-raising activities]). Under the circumstances presented, the Committee recommends that the inquiring judge ask the committee chair to appoint another person from the town to undertake these fund-raising duties.


         1 The present inquiry does not appear to involve making recommendations to public or private fund-granting organizations on “projects and programs concerning the law, the legal system or the administration of justice” (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][iii]).