SOLICITATION OF FUNDS:
TEXAS CENTER FOR JUDICIARY
Opinion No. 58 (1982)*
QUESTION: Does a judge subject to the Code of Judicial Conduct of the
State of Texas violate the letter or spirit of the Code when, as an authorized
representative of the Texas Center for the Judiciary, Inc., he or she solicits
contributions for the benefit of the Center from charitable and educational foundations
and other donors who would not ordinarily come before the court?
ANSWER: The Committee is of the opinion that such conduct would not violate the letter or spirit of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Participation in worthwhile organizations that depend upon fund-raising for support is a continuing dilemma for judges. While a judge may serve in a leadership capacity in such an organization, Canon 5B(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits any type of participation, or lending the prestige of judicial office, in soliciting funds no matter how worthy the purpose.
An exception to such activity is wisely provided in Canon 4, when the purpose of an organization is
"devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of
justice." The Texas Center for the Judiciary, Inc., clearly qualifies under such
exception. Canon 4C provides that the judge "may make recommendations to public and
private fund-granting* agencies on projects and programs concerning the law, the legal
system, and the administration of justice."
Canon 4C also provides that a judge "may assist such an organization in raising funds and may participate in their management and investment, but should not personally participate in public fund-raising activities."
It is the interpretation of the Committee that "public fund-raising
activities" are those activities aimed at the general public or a large segment
thereof. A more narrow interpretation would render the language "assist such an
organization in raising funds" meaningless. The Committee is of the opinion that
Canon 4 permits a judge to present the purposes and financial requirements of the Texas
Center for the Judiciary, Inc., to one or more of the prospective donors referred to in
the question. Such a presentation must be in harmony with the spirit of the Code of
Judicial Conduct particularly Canons 1 and 2. The Committee recommends that the judge making
such a presentation clearly state that such presentation is made as an authorized
representative of the organization and not for the judge personally.
*Canon 5B(2) was amended effective December 19, 1989.