Opinion: 98-98
September 10, 1998
Digest:    A judge should not submit a letter for publication in a bar association's newsletter encouraging attorneys to pay a fee and enroll in the association's legal referral service.

Rule:    22 NYCRR 100.2 (C); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i)
            Opinion 90-73 (Vol. V)


            A full-time judge, who prior to taking the bench had subscribed to the legal referral service operated by the county bar association, inquires whether it is permissible to submit a letter for publication in the bar association's newsletter indicating how beneficial the service had been to the judge while practicing law, and encouraging attorneys to enroll in the program. Attorneys would pay a fee to the bar association for inclusion in the referral service.

            While judges are permitted to participate in a wide variety of bar association activities, including soliciting lawyers for voluntary pro bono representation of the poor, the specific solicitation here would seem to go beyond what is permissible. See, e.g. Opinion 90-73 (Vol. V). The letter would give the appearance that the judge is approving the qualifications of lawyers registered with the referral service, and thus implicates the use of the prestige of the judicial office to advance the private interests of others in violation of section 100.2(C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.

            In addition, any direct solicitation of the registration fee in the letter from the judge would also constitute a violation of the rules prohibiting fund-raising on behalf of the organization. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i).