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Opinion 24

The Commission has been asked to render an opinion with respect to the following question: where a judge serves as an “officer[], director[], trustee[], or non-legal advisor[] of educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organizations not conducted for the economic or political advantage of their members,” as specifically authorized by Rule 3.7(B)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, is it proper for the judge to be listed as such on a letter soliciting contributions for the organization, assuming the judge himself does not sign the letter or participate in any way in the solicitation effort? Rule 3.7(B)(2), which is one of the specific limitations on Rule 3.7(B), provides in part:

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.

It is clear that a judge should not “use or permit the use of the prestige of his office” for the purpose of raising funds for any organization, regardless of how worthwhile its objectives and activities may be. The Commission believes that the mere listing of a judge’s name on a letter soliciting funds would to some extent be a use of the prestige of his office, particularly if the judge is identified as a judge or is known to be a judge by the recipients of the appeal for funds.

Accordingly, it is the opinion of the Commission that such a practice, i.e. the listing of the judge’s name on a letter seeking contributions, violates Rule 3.7(B)(2) and should be avoided.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rule 1.3, 3.7(B)(2). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #15, #17, #37, #43, #117, #133, #138, #139, #145, #146, #161, #164, #186.]

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