January 16, 2020
This responds to your inquiry (19-86) asking whether you may serve as the chair of a strategic planning committee for a private not-for-profit school your children attend. You advise that the strategic planning committee will assess the school’s current academic and financial strategies but will not engage in any fund raising. Your duties will include participating in selecting committee members, hiring of an outside consultant, and planning, drafting and presentation of the plan to the board of trustees. You also state you previously served on the audit committee and academic affairs committee. We note you are a full-time judge.
We have previously advised that a full-time judge may serve on the board of a private, non-profit school that his/her child attends, provided the judge is not involved in any fund raising, does not render legal advice, and does not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance any private interest (see Opinion 15-149).
While there is no inherent judicial conflict in chairing the strategic planning committee, a judge may only recruit volunteers from within the organization (i.e. the parents of current students) in order to avoid the perception that the prestige of the judge’s office is used to obtain participation (see Opinion 17-69).
We previously advised that a full-time judge may not serve on the audit committee for the school (see Opinion 03-138), however, you may serve on the academic affairs committee, as long as you are not adjudicating compliance issues (see Opinions 13-155 and 07-199).
Enclosed for your convenience, are Opinions 17-69; 15-149; 13-155; and 07-199, which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc Justice Appellate Div., First Dept. (Ret)
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Supreme Court Justice