Opinion No. 199 (1996)

QUESTION 1: May a judge solicit contributions to the Texas Center for the Judiciary, a not for profit organization dedicated to the education of judges, from individuals, businesses or foundations promoting judicial education or similar endeavors?

ANSWER 1: No. In 1982 we issued Opinion No. 52 holding that a judge may solicit funds for the Texas Center for the Judiciary from foundations and other donors not likely to come before the court without violating the letter or the spirit of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Since that time the letter of the code has changed; Canon 4C(2) now squarely prohibits a judge from soliciting funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization without excepting organizations devoted to the improvement of the law. No longer is there any language that could justify a distinction between public fund raising and solicitations directed to private foundations. While it might seem appropriate for a judge to be able to solicit funds for an organization that promotes judicial education, the Code as presently drafted does not permit any direct fund raising by Texas judges, as we noted recently in Opinion No. 196 concerning solicitation of funds for the National Center for State Courts.

QUESTION 2: May a judge introduce the executive director of the Texas Center for the Judiciary to foundations, businesses, or individuals expressing an interest in supporting the Center?

ANSWER 2: Yes. As we noted in Opinion No. 196, Canon 4C(2) permits judges to be listed as an officer, director or trustee of a civic or charitable organization, and implicitly allows stationary bearing their names in such positions to be used for fund raising purposes, so long as the judge does not sign the solicitation letter. Allowing a judge to make an introduction of the executive director to a potential donor serves a similar function: it informs the donor that the judge is associated with and sponsors the Texas Center for the Judiciary. The judge must not participate in or be present during the executive director's fund raising efforts as this would constitute direct solicitation.

QUESTION 3: May the executive director of the Texas Center for the Judiciary solicit contributions or sponsorships from vendors of legal materials, such as West Publishing?

ANSWER 3: Because the Code of Judicial Conduct only governs the activities of judges, the Committee expresses no opinion regarding the actions of the executive director of the Texas Center for the Judiciary. The solicitation efforts of the Center directly reflect upon judges, but the executive director's activities are subject to review by the organization's board of directors and not this Committee.