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Opinion 17

The Commission has received two requests for opinions which are related in subject matter.

In one case, a Judge of the Superior Court who is a member of the Board of Deacons of a Presbyterian Church has been asked by the Board to assume the Chairmanship of a fund-raising drive within the membership of the church.

In the other case, a Judge of the Superior Court has been asked to serve as a member of the Development Council to raise funds to provide private financial support needed by The University of Georgia School of Law in connection with which he would be called upon to attend “two or three dinners and/or luncheons, give occasional advice to campaign leaders and some help in stimulating the needed response for a successful campaign.”

We have been asked whether it would be ethical for them to serve in the capacities indicated.

Under the provisions of Rule 3.7, it is provided:

(B) Judges may participate in educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic activities that do not reflect adversely upon their impartiality orinterfere with the performance of their judicial duties.

(1) Judges may serve as officers, directors, trustees, or non-legal advisors of educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organizations not conducted for the economic or political advantage of their members, subject to the following limitations

. . .

(2) 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.

While the quoted Rule permits the judge to be an officer, director, trustee, or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization, and may be listed as such, a judge is prohibited from soliciting funds for any such organization or using or permitting the use of the prestige of his office for that purpose, it otherwise specifically states that it would be improper for a judge to be a speaker or’ the guest of honor at an organization’s fund raising events, although he may attend such events.

Thus, while it would appear to be proper for a Judge of the Superior Court to act as Chairman of the governing body of a church, it would seem that the spirit of the Canon would make it improper for him to coordinate, manage, or actively participate in any fund raising campaign, or serve as Chairman or a member of a committee created and existing solely for the purpose of carrying out a campaign for raising funds for the church; although he might, as a member of the governing body, act as an advisor to such a committee.

In the case of the Development Council, it likewise appears that while it is in effect an educational organization; nevertheless, it impliedly appears that the Council is created for the purpose of, and its sole function will be, to solicit and raise funds for educational purposes. Here again, it appears to the Commission that it would be difficult for a Judge of the Superior Court to be a member of such a Council and it still be said that he was not participating in soliciting funds or that he was not permitting the use of the prestige of his office for such purpose.

In the foregoing view, the Commission is of the opinion that a Judge of the Superior Court should not serve as Chairman or a member of a committee or organization, the principal function of which is to solicit and raise funds for a religious, educational or other like organization.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rule 2.4(B), 3.7(B)(2). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #15, #24, #37, #43, #117, #133, #138, #139, #145, #146, #161, #164, #186.]

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