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Opinion 186

The Presiding Judge of the Supreme Court of Georgia, a graduate of the LLM program offered for judges by the University of Virginia School of Law, seeks an opinion concerning the propriety of his chairing a committee which would solicit contributions from other graduate judges across the country for the purpose of establishing a Chair in Judicial Administration honoring the long-time Director of this highly regarded program. Specifically, the question posed is this: Whether a sitting judge may participate in a solicitation effort directed to other members of the judiciary?

While Canon 5 of the 1972 ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, as well as certain other State Codes based on this Model, appears to contain an exception to the well-established rule that a judge may not solicit funds in those instances in which the solicitation is limited to other judges (Canon 5, 1972 ABA Model Code; Canon 4(C)(3)(d), 1992 California Code of Judicial Conduct), Georgia has never adopted the ABA Model Code, and no such exception is permitted in this State.

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

(2) Judges should not 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 . . . .

This Canon has been dealt with and construed by this Commission in varying factual situations, many of which are cited in Opinion No. 164 (April 24, 1992). In that Opinion, the Commission concluded that it would be inappropriate for the Council of Juvenile Court Judges to solicit contributions or permit their names to be used in a solicitation effort for a college scholarship to be established in memory of a former Executive Director. Additionally, the proposed revision of the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct, currently under consideration by the Supreme Court, contains no suggested changes in the language of Rule 3.7(B)(2).

In short, this Commission has consistently held that a judge may neither solicit funds nor permit the use of his name or the prestige of his office to be used for that purpose regardless of the objectives to be achieved. No valid reason appears which authorizes a departure from this well-established rule simply because the solicitation will be limited to fellow graduate judges. Accordingly, and with all due deference to this laudable endeavor, the question posed must nevertheless be answered in the negative.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rule 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.]

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