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Opinion 145

The Commission has been asked for an Advisory Opinion as to whether a judge can participate in a so called “Jail-a-Thon” to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Briefly stated, it is represented that the “Jail-a-Thon” is a fund raising event in which citizens pay or pledge $25.00 for the “arrest” of another person, charging them with some “offense.” The charges are generally humorous and made tongue-in-cheek. For example, a supervisor might be charged with the “offense” of cruelty to subordinates. A representative of a sponsoring organization and a volunteer peace officer would then go out and “arrest” the individual against whom the charge was made. The individual is transported to the “jail” – any conveniently designated location – where he is taken before the “judge.”

The “judge” reviews the charges, again in humor, then finds the individual guilty – and everyone is found guilty – and sets the required “bail.” “Bail” is the amount of pledges for contributions to the American Cancer Society which the individual must raise by making telephone calls from the “jail” in order to be released.

The inquiry is as to whether Rule 3.7(B)(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits a judge from serving as the “judge” for such a fund raising event as this.

In Opinion 43 the Commission was asked for an opinion as to whether a judge could serve as chairman of an annual fund campaign for a local United Givers Organization upon the representation that, while he would work with committees and fund raisers, he would not actually solicit funds himself. In this opinion, after reviewing earlier opinions, including Opinion Nos. 17 and 37, the Commission concluded:

It is therefore our conclusion that a judge should not assume the chairmanship or be a member of a committee the principal function of which would be to raise funds for a charitable purposes.

The Commission therefore concludes that it would not be appropriate for a judge to serve as the “judge” for the purpose of the proposed Jail-a-Thon.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 2.4(B), 3.7(B)(2). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #15, #17, #24, #43, #89, #117, #133, #138, #139, #146, #161, #164, #186.]

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