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Opinion 37

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has been requested to render an opinion as to whether it would be improper for a Judge of the Superior Court to serve as President of a charitable foundation.

The subject matter is dealt with in Rule 3.7. Section B of Rule 3.7 provides that:

(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:

(a) judges shall not serve if it is likely that the organization will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before them;

(b) judges shall not serve if it is likely that the organization will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court; and

(c) judges shall not give investment advice to such an organization, but they may serve on its board of directors or trustees and 37 participate in its management, even when governance includes the responsibility for approving investment decisions. 


Rule 3.7(B) expressly approves of a judge acting as an officer or in another fiduciary capacity in an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members, and if it is not an activist or peculiar type of organization likely to be regularly engaged in litigation.

However, it should be noted that even though the organization may not be of a type as above described, so that a judge may serve as an officer of such organization, there are, nevertheless, certain limitations on the judge’s activities relating to fund raising.

These are (1) a judge may not solicit funds for the organization or use or permit the use of the prestige of his office for the purpose of generating donations such as being a speaker or guest of honor at the organization fund raising events, although he may attend such events; and (2) he may not give investment advice to the organization, although he may serve on its board of trustees or directors and may be assigned the responsibility for approving investment decisions.

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 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.

While not exhaustive, it seems to us that this would prohibit a judge as an officer of an organization from sending out solicitation letters over his signature or, as we have held in Opinion No. 24, permitting letters to be sent out on which his name appears as an officer of the organization, nor should he preside or be prominently seated at any meeting held for fund raising purposes. This would also seem to prohibit a judge from appearing on a television or radio program in which donations are solicited or making any statements to the news media in which donations are sought.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rule 2.4(C), 3.7(B). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #8, #15, #17, #24, #43, #89, #117, #133, #138, #139, #145, #146, #161, #164, #186.]

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