April 29, 2021
Digest: A judge may not organize a virtual fashion show for judges which will (a) showcase the merchandise of a single producer of judicial robes or jewelry, (b) include a display by a single artist who creates and sells themed jewelry, or (c) display jewelry from judges’ personal collections accompanied by information about where the items were or can be purchased.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.2(C); Opinions 09-174; 08-188.
A full-time judge would like to organize a virtual judicial fashion show in their capacity as a co-chair of a bar association’s committee for women judges. The event would be for committee members and invited guests and would not be a fund-raiser. The judge inquires about three specific elements of the proposed event. First, the judge asks if it is permissible to feature a single judicial robe manufacturer who sells robes designed to suit the height, body shape and style of women judges. The inquiring judge advises that, after researching resources available for judicial robes designed for women, only two possible companies were found, and only one company is currently available to present a virtual fashion event. Second, the judge asks if they may invite an artist who makes and sells bracelets in tribute to a trail-blazing female jurist to display these wares at the event. Third, the judge asks if judges on the bar association committee may display pins and statement/bib necklaces from their own collections and advise where they bought these items or where they can be purchased.
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]). A judge may not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance any private interests (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).
We have advised that “a judge may not actively or tacitly promote the products or services of any organization,” even to other judges (see Opinion 09-174 [telephonic court appearance service], citing Opinion 08-188 [financial products and services]). This rule is “particularly strict” with respect to products and services offered by a for-profit entity, because a judge is prohibited from lending the prestige of judicial office to advance private interests (Opinion 09-174; 22 NYCRR 100.2[C]).
In light of the foregoing, we find that the inquiring judge may not organize a virtual fashion show for judges which will (a) showcase the merchandise of a single producer of judicial robes or jewelry, (b) include a display by a single artist who creates and sells themed jewelry, or (c) display jewelry from judges’ personal collections, where such display is accompanied by information about where the items were or can be purchased. It is immaterial, from an ethics perspective, that the judge would be acting in their capacity as co-chair of a bar association committee.