Opinion 22-73


June 27, 2022



Dear :


         This responds to your inquiry (22-73) asking if, as a full-time judge, you may:

         (1)     serve on the steering committee of a not-for-profit cultural/religious organization associated with a college, and donate at least $1000 per year as required.

         (2)     permit your name to be listed on the organization’s regular letterhead, including the title “Honorable.” The letterhead might be used for the Society’s fundraising events.

         (3)     permit your name to be listed on an invitation to the Society’s fundraising events.


Question 1(a): Serving on the Steering Committee


A judge may be a member of “an organization…dedicated to the preservation of religious, ethnic, cultural or other values of legitimate common interest to its members” (22 NYCRR 100.2[D]), but not one “that practices invidious discrimination” (Opinions 15-171; 09-170). As described, the organization here, though associated with one racial, ethnic, or cultural group, does not invidiously discriminate, and is devoted to improvement of its members, with no suggestion of exclusionary practices (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[D]; Opinion 15-171).

Thus, it is ethically permissible for you to serve on the steering committee of a not-for-profit educational/cultural organization associated with a college, provided such activity does not interfere with your judicial duties and it is not likely the organization will “be engaged regularly in adversary proceedings in any court” (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][a][ii]) or “be engaged in proceedings that ordinarily would come” before your court (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][i]). 


Question 1(b): Financially Contributing to the Organization

As a general rule, “it is no ethical consequence for a judge to make a monetary contribution to a non-profit organization” (Opinion 04-140; see Opinion 13-185).  We see no impropriety in a judge using their own personal funds to make charitable contributions to a not-for-profit organization while serving on its board.


Question 2: Name on the Organization’s Letterhead


We have advised that a judge may be listed as an officer, director or trustee of a not-for-profit charitable organization on the organization’s regular letterhead, even if the organization uses its regular letterhead for fund-raising or membership solicitation (Opinions 05-146; 02-106; 22 NYCRR 100.4[C][3][b][iv]).


Accordingly, your name and title in the organization may be listed on the organization’s regular letterhead. Your “judicial designation may also be included if comparable designations are listed for other persons on the [committee]” (Opinion 02-106).


Question 3: Name on the Organization’s Fundraising Invitation


We have previously advised that where a judge appears on a not-for-profit organization’s regular letterhead as a board member, the judge may also permit the organization to include his/her name along with other board members on the organization’s fund-raising invitations, as long as the content of the list is the same, even if the formatting is not identical, unless the specific formatting reasonably creates an impression that the board members collectively and/or the judge individually are personally soliciting funds or personally inviting people to attend the fund-raiser (see Opinion 15-219; see also Opinion 18-54).


Thus, while you may not permit your name or the prestige of judicial office to be used for fund-raising, if the organization lists all board members on a fund-raising invitation in a manner consistent with Opinion 15-219, you may be listed together with the rest of the board. 


         Enclosed for your reference are Opinions 18-54; 15-223; 15-219; 15-163; 15-171; 13-185; 09-170; 05-146; 04-140 and 02-106.

                                       Very truly yours,



                                        Margaret T. Walsh

                                       Supreme Court Justice

                                       Committee Co-Chair


                                       Lillian Wan

                                       Associate Justice

Appellate Division, Second Department

Committee Co-Chair