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Opinion 161

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has been asked for an Advisory Opinion with respect to the following question:

A Judge is an officer and board member of a non-profit social welfare organization. The organization is a United Way member agency and receives an annual allocation. Every year the United Way holds various meetings with the agency to consider funding requests. The officers of the agency are expected to appear at these meetings to represent the agency’s interest.

(a) Can the judge participate in these meetings?

(b) Can the judge participate in any activity connected with the United Way which might be construed as having some influence on the amount of allocation his agency receives?

Rule 3.7(B)(2) provides in part as follows:

Judges shall not personally solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of their office for that purpose, but they may be listed as officers, directors, or trustees of such organizations.

This Canon has been dealt with and construed by this Commission in various situations in Opinions Nos. 17, 24, 37, 43, 73, 133 and 139. In Opinion No. 37, the Commission concludes as follows:

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the Canon relates to what kind of conduct, in connection with fund raising activities, should be viewed as using or permitting the use of the prestige of his office to generate donations to the organization.

Aside from the prohibition against personally soliciting funds or being a speaker or a guest of honor on a fund raising occasion, the prohibition of the use, directly or indirectly, of the prestige of his office for the purpose of generating donations would clearly indicate that a judge should not in any overt way participate in support of such fund raising activities, although merely being an officer of the organization or attending its fund raising events is not to be considered as using the prestige of his office for gaining donations for the organization.

The Commission therefore concludes that it would not be inappropriate for a judge to participate in meetings to consider funding requests of the agency from United Way and that both of said questions should be answered in the affirmative, provided the judge does not participate, either directly or indirectly, in any fund raising activities on behalf of said agency or United Way.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 1.3, 3.7(B)(2). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #15, #17, #24, #43, #89, #117, #133, #138, #139, #145, #146, #161, #164, #186.]

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