June 27, 2022
Dear Judge :
This responds to your inquiry (22-55) asking whether, as a full-time judge, you may create a scholarship at your former elementary school and college both of which you will be fully funding yourself. You have also asked if it is permissible to volunteer with foster youth through a city agency.
In Opinion 99-121, we advised that, under the circumstances specified, where there is no fund-raising or solicitation or contributions, it is not ethically improper for a judge to consent to having a law school scholarship and an office named after the judge (see Opinion 01-84 [a judge may fund an award that recognizes a volunteer involved in high school athletics, and present the award at an annual awards event, provided that there is no fund-raising or solicitation or contributions involved]).
Accordingly, it is ethically permissible for you to create a scholarship at both your elementary school and college and fund such scholarships, provide there is no fund-raising or solicitation involved.
As to volunteering with foster children, we have advised that where the proposed mentee has no connection with the judicial system and where the mentorship does not involve the judge in fund-raising or other impermissible activities, the judge may serve as a mentor subject to the generally applicable limitations on judicial speech (see Opinion 16-124).
Subject to the limitations set forth in Opinion 16-124, you may volunteer with foster youth through a city agency. However, should your mentee become involved in court proceedings, you may take no role on the youth’s behalf (see id.; cf. Opinion 14-181).
Enclosed for your reference are Opinions 16-124; 14-181; 01-84; 99-121.
Very truly yours,
Margaret T. Walsh
Supreme Court Justice
Appellate Division, Second Department