Opinion: 99-79

June 18, 1999

Digest: A letter from the judges on the court's Gender Fairness Committee requesting from the judges in the courthouse a contribution of $5.00 to cover the cost of the "Bring Your Child to Work Day program being held in the courthouse, does not constitute an impermissible solicitation of funds or fund-raising activity.

Rule:  Preamble to Part 100;
          22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i), and (iv).


            The inquiring judge is the chair of the Gender Fairness Committee of the judge's judicial district, and, as such, is responsible for organizing a "Bring Your Child to Work Day" program which will take place in the courthouse. An essay contest is part of the program and "[t]here are attendant costs for the essay prizes/awards and for the morning drinks and snacks of approximately $200 for the event." The judge goes on to state:

The Judges of the Committee wanted to request each of their colleagues in the building . . . to donate $5.00 (five dollars) to cover the costs. The thought is that since that almost all those attending were the children of those who worked with the judges, i.e. officers, clerks, stenographers, secretaries, court attorneys, coupled with the fact that the kids really wanted to see the judges working in the courtroom as well as their parents, the judges would gladly donate such a minimal and token amount of money.

            The judge asks whether it is ethically permissible for the judges on the committee "to write a letter to all the judges in the building requesting $5.00 for the program."

            In our opinion the making of such a request is permissible. While it is quite true that under the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct a judge may "not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities" (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][i]) or "use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising" (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][iv])), the making of such a request does not constitute the kind of fund-raising activity contemplated by the Rules. All that is involved is a request for a minimal sum to cover the cost of a singular and specific court-sponsored program taking place in the courthouse. A judge receiving such a request could hardly consider it coercive. As stated in the Preamble to the Rules, "The rules governing judicial conduct are rules of reason." In our view, it would be unreasonable to interpret section 100.4(C)(3)(b), as barring the making of such a request. Accordingly, the sending of the letter request to all judges in the courthouse is permissible.