December 17, 2008
A Long And Ethical Walk
A Massachusetts judge who participated in a 60 mile walk for charity (raising funds for cancer research) did not violate judicial ethics rules in so doing, according to an opinion of the Committee on Judicial Ethics. However, a contribution made by a probation officer should have been and was returned:
The charitable enterprise that you engaged in was a laudable effort, indeed, a sixty mile walk is a daunting task. In order to make such events successful, obviously, much publicity is necessary. It is not surprising that your participation in the Walk became known beyond the bounds of your family and your judicial colleagues. Because this contribution was not solicited by you and because the donor was not a court employee or lawyer or litigant, the Committee is of the opinion that you need not reimburse her for her unsolicited contribution.
In sum, the contribution 1 and 2 from family and judicial colleagues were proper. Contribution 3 from the probation officer, in accordance with our advice in Opinion 2000-4 was properly returned. Because you did not solicit a contribution from the donor of Contribution 4, the Committee does not believe that any further action is required on your part as to that particular donation.
Finally, to avoid any further contributions being made by persons who may feel a desire to contribute based on your position as a judge, you should take down your webpage or otherwise make it publicly inaccessible. Allowing your name to be placed on the website creates a risk that individuals other than the small pool of individuals from whom the judge may solicit will also see and contribute on the judge's behalf. Consequently judges should make every effort to prevent a fundraising website containing their name from being made publicly available for fundraising purposes and, if the effort is unsuccessful, they should not permit their name to appear on the site.
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The judge was allowed to solicit contributions from fellow judges because of a rewrite of the Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct:
>>> In our informal advice to you, we noted that Section 4(C)(3)(b)(i)of the new Code rewrote the prior Canon5(B)(2) and now provides that "...[a judge] shall not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fundraising activities, except that a judge may solicit funds from other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority..." <<<
But query if this is really wise? It is not at all uncommon that a fellow judge is called upon to decide a matter which could, potentially, prove embarrassing to a fellow judge. It isn’t just judges that have supervisory (which is an administrative and not judicial relationship) or appellate authority who could develop a bias.
Posted by: FixedWing | Dec 17, 2008 7:58:50 AM