Opinion No. 141 (1991)

QUESTION: May a judge be the chairman of and serve on a committee to encourage and expand the economic development and historical restoration of a downtown area in which the judge owns real property? The committee will solicit funds from private businesses and individuals and from the city to fund the project.

ANSWER: No. Canon 2B provides that a judge should not permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for the private interests of the judge or others.
Canon 5C(1) provides that a judge should refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to exploit the judge's judicial position.

The Committee concludes that the judge's participation, as chairman of the committee or as a member, in sponsoring a project that may benefit the judge and that depends upon fund raising would create the appearance of using the prestige of judicial office for the benefit of the owners of the downtown property, including the judge. That activity could also give the appearance of compromising the independence of the judge by permitting a contributor to attempt to curry favor with the judge or to convey the impression that the contributor is in a special position to influence the judge.