Opinion 97-134

December 11, 1997


Digest:         A newly-elected full-time judge may continue to serve as a director of a charitable organization provided that such service does not conflict with the judge’s judicial duties.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.3(A); 100.4 (A)(3); 100.4 ( C)(3)(a)(ii)


         A newly-elected full-time judge in a large city who is a director of a community organization operated exclusively for charitable purposes, inquires if it is permissible to continue as a director and committee chair as previously.

         The function of the organization is to revitalize distressed communities in a large city area and to prepare youth for leadership, work and a productive future. Other functions include assisting area residents in obtaining employment, engaging in health programs for high school students, supporting business revitalization projects, creating a community court, computer-assisted programs and similar projects.

         The organization does not engage in fund-raising but is sustained by public grant from federal, state and city sources and private tax investments. It is not a government agency. Should the agency later engage in fund-raising the judge will not participate.

         The judge is presently a member of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Human Capital Committee. The judge’s role is to formulate policy consistent with the organization’s goals and to review and approve funding proposals. The judge does not anticipate any litigation involving the corporation.

         It appears from the judge’s inquiry that the organization is very active and covers a large part of the city. Consequently, as a director and committee chair, the judge’s services may be in demand requiring an expenditure of considerable time. Likewise, as a newly-elected full-time judge in a busy court in a large city the judge’s time is primarily occupied by judicial duties.

         Section 100.4(A)(3) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct provides that a judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra judicial activities so that they do not “interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not incompatible with judicial office.” Section 100.4(C)(3)(a)(ii) of the Rules provides that a judge may be a member or serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an organization of a charitable, cultural, fraternal or civic organization not conducted for profit unless the organization will be engaged regularly in adversary proceeding in any court. Further section 100.3(A) of the Rules, provides that “the judicial duties of a judge take precedence over all the judge’s other activities.”

         Based on the foregoing, there is no per se barrier to the judge’s continued participation in the organization. However, such participation must at all times remain subject to and subordinate to the primacy that must be given the judge to the proper performance of the judge’s judicial duties.