Opinion 20-142

December 1, 2020

Dear :

         This responds to your inquiry (20-142) asking if you, a full-time judge, may serve on the general board of a religious denomination, which has “primary authority with regard to non-ecclesiastical policies and plans” of the denomination. It oversees the financial and material affairs of the denomination’s committees, departments, and entities, and thus has the power to direct auditing of their accounts and/or direct their business and administrative affairs.


         In general, a judge may be an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of a not-for-profit religious organization, subject to certain limitations (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3]). For example, a full-time judge may not serve if the organization will likely be engaged either in proceedings that ordinarily would come before the judge, or in adversary proceedings in any court (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][a][i]-[ii]). In addition, while a judge may assist such an organization in planning fundraising and may participate in the management and investment of the organization’s funds, the judge may not personally participate in soliciting funds or other fund-raising activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.4 [C][3][b][i]) and may not permit the use of judicial prestige for fund-raising or membership solicitation (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][iv]).


         Consistent with prior opinions, we conclude that you may serve on the general board of a religious denomination, provided the organization does not accept court referrals or regularly engage in adversary proceedings in any court or in proceedings that ordinarily would come before you. Your participation is subject to all generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct, including the prohibitions on fund-raising and (as you are a full-time judge) providing legal advice.


         We enclose Opinions 03-129, 05-17, and 12-177 for your reference.


                                       Very truly yours,



                                       Margaret Walsh                                                                                               Supreme Court Justice

                                       Committee Co-Chair


                                       Lillian Wan                                                                                                      Acting Supreme Court Justice

                                       Committee Co-Chair