Opinion: 98-35
March 12, 1998
Digest:    (1) A judge may not organize a clothing drive to be conducted at the Court, to assist public housing residents in developing business skills. (2) A judge may serve on the board of directors of (a) an American Red Cross chapter (b) a non-profit neighborhood Health Center, and (c) a non-profit county-wide Arts Council, and (3) may be a member of a non-profit civic group dedicated to the elimination of racism and violence.

Rules:    22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3);
              Opinions 93-108(Vol. XII);
              90-25(Vol. V)


            A Family Court judge asks whether she/he may organize a clothing drive at the Family Court in connection with the efforts of a non-profit organization trying to help residents of public housing develop business skills. The clothing drive would solicit business clothing for participants in the training sessions held by the organization to aid them in seeking employment.

            Further, the judge requests an opinion about serving on three boards of directors: (1) a neighborhood Health Center (2) a local chapter of the American Red Cross and (3) a county-wide Arts Council.

            Also, the judge would like to join the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Commission for Nonviolence a non-profit civic organization that conducts programs to combat racism and violence.

            In response to the question of organizing a clothing drive to be held in the Court, the Committee relies upon its previous advice in Opinion 94-58(Vol. XII), which stated:

... neither the judge nor the clerk of the court can
engage in a clothing drive in the name of the court.
Requesting attorneys and others to bring clothing
and other items to the court would constitute a
solicitation of contributions, which, although not of
funds, would be perceived as involving the court as
the sponsor of a particular charitable activity. Rule
100.5(b)(2) [now 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i)] is intended to
guard against such public sponsorship and, in the
view of the Committee, is applicable.
            As to serving as a director, the Committee in Opinion 90-25(Vol. V) stated that "The community benefits from having judges take an active part in community affairs whenever possible". Thus, a judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties. A judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization not conducted for profit, subject to certain limitations. See 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3).

            Thus, with respect to the judge's inquiry about participation in the Arts Council, the local Red Cross Chapter and the Health Center, the judge may be a member of these community groups/boards, provided the judge does not "personally participate in the solicitation of funds or engage in other fund-raising activities." 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i).

            The judge may also be a member of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Commission for Nonviolence, subject to the same limitations, which include non-participation in controversial issues or litigation. See e.g. opinion 93-108(Vol. XII).