SERVICE ON COMMITTEE TO
RESTORE COURTHOUSE

Opinion No. 131 (1989)*


QUESTION: May judges serve on, and allow their names to appear on the letterheads of, steering and coordinating committees to consider funding and organizing a project to restore their courthouse dome, and a project committee to consider the design and appropriateness of the restoration?

ANSWER: The Committee concludes that a judge may serve on and advise such committees but may not allow their names to appear on letterhead used for fund raising. As proper facilities for courts are essential to the legal system and to the proper administration of justice (see Committee Opinion 82), this courthouse dome project is within the provisions of Canon 4C, which reads as follows:

"A judge may serve as a member, officer or director of an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. 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. He or she 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."

As stated in Committee Opinion 58, a judge may serve in a leadership capacity in a Canon 4C organization, but Canon 5B(2) prohibits any type of participation in, or lending the prestige of judicial office to, public fund raising activities. The Canon 4C exceptions to the Canon 5B(2) prohibition against participating in fund raising are limited to advice to legal system and administration of justice organizations and to recommendations to fund-raising agencies and similar donors. See Opinion 58. This construction of Canon 4C gives effect to the principles of Canon 1 and Canon 2B that a judge should not lend the prestige of judicial office, or permit others to curry favor or to give the impression that they can influence the judge.

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*Canon 5B(2) was amended effective December 19, 1989.