Opinion 43

The Judicial Qualifications Commission now has an inquiry from a judge as to whether it would be appropriate for him to act as chairman of an annual fund campaign of the local United Givers Organization. The judge advises that while he would work with committees and fund raisers, he would not actually solicit funds himself.

Previously the Commission has dealt with an inquiry of whether it would be proper for a Judge of the Superior Court to serve as president of a charitable organization. In that opinion, No. 37, we noted that Rule 3.7(B):

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

Nevertheless, we warned against activity which might reasonably be construed as using the prestige of his office to generate donations to the organization. We concluded that:

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.

In Opinion No. 37, we were dealing with the question of whether a Judge should act as President of a charitable organization part of the function of which was the raising of funds for charitable purposes. Here, it appears that this is not quite the case, but rather that the judge will be serving as Chairman of a fund raising campaign conducted by the organization and we are forced to the conclusion that holding such a position would within itself constitute the use of the prestige of his office for fund raising purposes. In such circumstances, it seems clear that however careful the judge might be, the impression is clear in the minds of the public that as Chairman of a fund drive he is soliciting funds although the actual solicitation may be done by those serving under his direction.

The difference we believe is made apparent by our Opinion No. 17 wherein the opinion of the Commission was solicited as to whether A member of a “Board of Deacons of a. . . Church [could] . . . assume the Chairmanship of a fund-raising drive within the membership of the church.” Therein we arrived at the following conclusion:

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.

It is therefore our conclusion that a judge should not assume the chairmanship or be a member of a committee the principal function of which would be to raise funds for charitable purposes.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rule 2.4(C), 3.7(B)(2). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #15, #17, #24, #37, #117, #133, #138, #139, #145, #146, #161, #164, #186.]

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