Thursday, March 10, 2011
A recent opinion from the South Carolina Committee on Standards of Judicial Conduct:
OPINION NO. 1 - 2011
RE: Propriety of a part-time judge’s participation as a “Celebrity Judge” at a fund-raiser.
A part-time judge inquires into the propriety of acting as a “Celebrity Judge” as part of a fund-raising event for a local charity. The “Celebrity Judge” is not a part of the actual collecting or requesting of any donations. This is an annual event where the charity participants are picked up and placed in a pretend jail; when the participant pays the pledged amount, he or she is released in front of the “Celebrity Judge.” The judge inquires as to whether participation as the “Celebrity Judge” would violate the Code of Judicial Conduct.
A part-time judge may not participate as a “Celebrity Judge” because the participation would lend the prestige of judicial office to be used by others for fund-raising.
A judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice or of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization not conducted for profit, subject to limitations and other requirements of the Code. Rule 501, SCACR, Canon 4.C.(3). A judge, as an officer, director, trustee, or non-legal advisor, or as a member or otherwise, may assist such an organization in planning fund-raising and may participate in the management and investment of the organization’s funds, but shall not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities, except that a judge may solicit funds from other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority.” Canon 4.C.(3)(b)(i) (emphasis added). Furthermore, a judge shall not use, or permit the use by others, the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising. Canon 4C(3)(b)(iv).
Here, the judge will be participating in “fund-raising activities” and acting a “Celebrity Judge” would be lending the prestige of judicial office to a fund-raising event. Thus, judge should decline to participate.