Opinion: 98-160
January 28, 1999

Digest:    A part-time judge may continue to serve as a trustee of a local library, but may not participate in State and local lobbying efforts and other activities of the Board in support of legislation establishing a special library district to be financed by a tax levied on local residents.

Rule:       22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.4(C)(3); 100.5(A);
                Opinions 88-80 (Vol. II); 96-59 (Vol. XIV).


                A part-time judge, who has been serving as a trustee of a local library, asks if it is ethically proper to remain a member of the library Board of Trustees in light of the creation of a new library district which would be supported by a tax levied on residents of the district. The library board has established a special committee to implement this change. The committee would lobby before the New York State Assembly and Senate, and encourage the passage of a local enabling referendum.

                The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct allow a judge to be an active member and serve as a trustee of a not-for-profit educational, religious or civic organization. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3). This would include serving on a public or otherwise not-for-profit library board. For example, in Opinion 96-59 (Vol. XIV) the Committee advised that a part-time judge may serve as a trustee of a not-for-profit local library and may volunteer time at a fund-raising event, as long as the judge did not serve as a cashier or otherwise solicit funds while at the event. Opinion 96-59 (Vol. XIV).

                Here, what is involved is not charitable solicitation but impermissible political lobbying. Such lobbying in this instance does not relate to the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. Instead, the lobbying contemplated amounts to prohibited political activity under section 100.5(A) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, and would constitute an appearance of impropriety. 22 NYCRR 100.2. In short, the judge should not participate in the activities associated with the committee to set up the special district, since these activities involve prohibited lobbying efforts to see that necessary local and state legislation is enacted. 22 NYCRR 100.2. Opinion 88-80 (Vol. II).

                Accordingly, the judge may remain a member of the library board of trustees as long as there is no involvement in the lobbying activities of the committee establishing the special library district.