September 6, 2018
Digest: A judge may accept a prize resulting from his/her purchase of a winning raffle ticket at a charity event.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.4(C)(3); 100.4(D)(5); 100.4(H)(1); 100.4(H)(2); Opinions 15-72; 15-26/15-44; 04-140; 02-14; 96-118.
A full-time judge purchased multiple raffle tickets to support a charitable cause at an event hosted by the local probation department, an agency which regularly appears in the judge’s court. One of the judge’s tickets was selected in a random drawing, and the judge now asks if he/she may accept the associated prize, valued at approximately $500.
A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). Subject to certain limitations not applicable here, judges may contribute to charities and attend charitable fund-raisers (see generally 22 NYCRR 100.4[C]; Opinion 04-140).
We conclude the inquiring judge may accept the winning prize purchased at the charity event (see Opinions 02-14 [judge who received gift of dinner and raffle ticket from a friend may accept the prize awarded in a random drawing]; 96-118 [judges may participate in a countywide charitable raffle]). That the raffle and prize were sponsored by the probation department does not raise an ethical problem, as the judge’s impartiality cannot reasonably be questioned based on his/her decision to make a charitable donation by purchasing raffle tickets (see generally Opinions 04-140 [“it is of no ethical consequence for a judge to make a monetary contribution to a non-profit organization..., even if the organization appears in the judge’s court”]; 15-26/15-44 [judge may attend an annual fund-raising event for a not-for profit organization that provides services and support to victims of domestic abuse and child abuse]; 15-72 [judge may attend a dispute mediation service’s volunteer recognition dinner]).
We note the raffle prize here is neither a “gift” within the meaning of 22 NYCRR 100.4(D)(5) nor “compensation” within the meaning of 22 NYCRR 100.4(H)(1), and therefore need not be reported to the clerk of the court under Section 100.4(H)(2).