March 29, 2018
Digest: A part-time judge may volunteer with a not-for-profit sports booster club by serving as an officer or director and/or by assisting the organization in planning fund-raising but (1) must not personally solicit funds, (2) must not permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising, and (3) must not permit his/her name to appear as the author or signatory on any fund-raising letter or as spokesperson in other solicitations.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.2(C); 100.4(A)(1)-(3); 100.4(C)(3)(a)(i)-(ii); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i), (iv); Opinions 15-219; 14-85; 14-08; 12-14; 05-66; 96-69.
A judge asks if he/she may, “outside of collecting and soliciting funds,” volunteer in some unspecified capacity with “a local sports booster club, the primary purpose of which is to raise money for the benefit of a particular school sports program and its student participants.”
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 must 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 (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[A]-). A judge must not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance any private interests (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]). Nonetheless, a judge may serve as an officer or director of a charitable or civic organization not conducted for profit, subject to certain limitations (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][a][i]-[ii]), and the judge’s name and office in the organization may be listed on the organization’s regular letterhead, along with the judge’s judicial designation if comparable designations are listed for other persons, even if this regular letterhead is used for fund-raising or membership solicitation (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][iv]). However, a judge must not otherwise use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising or membership solicitation (see id.) and must not personally participate in soliciting funds or other fund-raising activities, although he/she “may assist” a not-for-profit charitable or civic organization in “planning fund-raising” (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][i]).
We have advised that a judge “may serve as an officer or director of a not-for-profit organization that engages in substantial fund-raising efforts,” but may “not chair an entity which appears to have no real function other than fund-raising, where the circumstances will inevitably suggest that the judge is involved in the entity’s fund-raising efforts” (Opinion 12-14). After reviewing both lines of opinions, we concluded in Opinion 12-14 that a judge may serve as president of a not-for-profit sports booster club. As summarized in the digest (id.):
A part-time judge may serve as president of a not-for-profit organization which promotes athletic involvement by raising funds for athletic programs at local schools and may assist the organization with planning fund-raising, provided that the judge does not personally solicit funds, does not permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising, and does not permit his/her name to appear as the author on any fund-raising letter or as spokesperson in other solicitations.
The same general principles apply here. However, as the present inquiry provides few factual details of the judge’s proposed involvement with the sports booster club, the judge may wish to seek our guidance on specific activities he/she may undertake.