December 1, 2020
This responds to your inquiry (20-171) asking 1) whether you may make a charitable donation to a 501(c)(3) living history farm for educational agricultural programming and 2) whether you may participate in a not-for-profit fund-raising drive for cancer research both by donating and by making a temporary change in your personal appearance to solicit donations from family and friends who are not associated with the court.
The Committee has previously advised that it is ethically permissible for a judge to make a charitable donation and to be acknowledged by the charity for making the donation. While personal donations are permissible, pursuant to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct a judge “shall not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities” (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][i]). However, we have advised that this rule need not apply to a judge’s own family members. Accordingly, you may not solicit donations from anyone who is not a family member. Finally, there is no ethical prohibition against changing your appearance to raise awareness of the need for cancer research.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 15-171; 13-18; and 07-17 which address these issues.
Very truly yours,
Margaret T. Walsh
Supreme Court Justice
Acting Supreme Court Justice