April 30, 2020
Digest: A judge may serve on board of directors for a not-for-profit private school.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A);100.2(C); 100.4(C)(3)(a); 100.4(C)(3)(a)(I)-(ii); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(I)-(ii), (iv); 100.4(G); Opinions 19-86; 15-149; 09-150; 08-173; 97-104/97-105.
A full-time judge’s child attends a not-for-profit private school. The judge asks if he/she may serve on its board of directors at the request of his/her fellow parents.
A judge must always avoid even the appearance of impropriety (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must always act to promote public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). A judge may serve as an officer or director of a not-for-profit educational organization, provided it is unlikely to “be engaged in proceedings that ordinarily would come before the judge” (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][a][I]) and, in the case of a full-time judge, is unlikely to “be engaged regularly in adversary proceedings in any court” (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][a][ii]).1 However, a judge must not lend judicial prestige to advance any “private interests” (22 NYCRR 100.2[C]), and the rules severely restrict a judge’s involvement in any fund-raising or membership solicitation (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][I]-[ii], [iv]).
Applying these principles, we have said a full-time judge may serve on the board of a private, not-for-profit school, provided he/she is not involved in any fund-raising, does not render legal advice, and does not lend judicial prestige to advance any private interest (see Opinions 19-86; 15-149; 09-150; 08-173; 97-104/97-105). This judge, too, may serve on the board of this not-for-profit school, subject to the same limitations.
1 A full-time judge may not practice law, but may serve as a "non-legal advisor" to such organization (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[G]; 100.4[C][a]).