Opinion: 97-48

May 8, 1997

Digest:  A local Women in the Courts Committee and its Advisory Committee may not participate in public fund-raising in support of a child care center for litigants in the local courts.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iii),(iv);
           Opinion 95-76 (Vol. XIII).


            A judge asks whether a local Women in the Courts Committee or its ad hoc Advisory Committee may solicit funds from local attorneys, bar associations, corporations and businesses to operate a child care center for litigants in the local courts. The committees are appointed by the local Administrative Judge and consist of judges, attorneys and child care professionals.

            Section 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iii) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct permits the committees to seek funds from public or private fund-granting groups to finance projects for the court system. The problem presented by this inquiry arises because the funds are being sought directly from the public. Section 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iv) of the Rules provides that judges may participate in the planning for and distribution of charitable funds but "shall not use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising." That Rule makes it clear that judges, as members of either committee, may not personally participate in fund-raising.

            It is equally clear that the purpose of the Rule is to preclude judges from using their prestige or title for the purpose of public fund-raising. The circumstances described here make it evident that the organizations involved are both created by and affiliated with the judiciary and appear to be adjuncts to the court system. Thus, any effort at fund-raising by either committee would, of necessity, be seen by the public as fund-raising by the court system itself, which is prohibited. cf. Opinion 95-76 (Vol. XIII). There is no way to separate the court from the committees' fund-raising efforts. This is particularly true since the purpose of the funds is to maintain a child care center for litigants in the courts. Accordingly, while this Committee lauds the work of the committees and the project, it is obligated to conclude that the method of fund- raising suggested is prohibited by the Rules.