November 18, 2019
This responds to your inquiry (19-105) asking whether, as a full-time judge, you may serve on the board of a not-for-profit organization that “advocates for effective policies and drives evidence-based solutions for the health, education and success of children,” with a special commitment to “children who are vulnerable because of poverty, racism, health disparities and trauma.” You indicate that the city court where you sit cannot make referrals to the organization, the organization does not endorse or oppose any political candidate nor make political contributions, and the organization does not promote its agenda through litigation.
The Committee has, on numerous occasions, advised that a full-time judge may serve in various capacities for a not-for-profit organization which is primarily concerned with issues of fact and policy connected to public health, education and safety, provided the organization is not-for-profit and is not itself a governmental committee or commission.1 Here, we see no inherent impropriety in the organization’s described mission and activities, and we assume it is unlikely to be involved in any litigation. Accordingly, as long as the position does not interfere with your judicial duties, you may serve on the board of this organization. However, should any of the circumstances described in the inquiry change, including if the organization becomes regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court, you must reconsider the propriety of your participation.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 18-144; 15-15; 10-187; 07-210; and 14-29 which address this issue.
1 Opinion 14-29 does not warrant a different result. In this Opinion we advised that a judge may not hold a leadership role in a “non-partisan feminist coalition” which advocates for and influences legislative and social policy affecting women and children. We believed that, unlike here, “the judge’s public involvement in extra-judicial matters of substantial public controversy may raise questions about
[his/her] ability to act impartially in the performance of judicial functions.” Those concerns are not present in this inquiry.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice (Ret.)
Appellate Div., First Dep’t
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Supreme Court Justice