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The Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee issued an advisory opinion stating that a judge may not solicit funds in person, by telephone, or by letter from individuals or corporations to support a reception to be held following a continuing legal education seminar sponsored by the Arkansas Association of Women Lawyers nor may the judge solicit funds on personal stationery from her residence, but the judge may suggest to the organization the names of potential donors and participate in the planning of fund-raising, and non-judicial members or employees of the organization may contact donors if they are careful not to suggest that they are acting on behalf of or with the knowledge of the judge. The Committee noted that Canon 4C implies that a judge may personally participate in "private" fund-raising, but stated that private fund-raising should be interpreted as limited to narrow situations involving, for example, fund-raising among relatives and other judges.


November 19, 1991

Judge Judith Rogers
Court of Appeals
Justice Building
625 Marshall
Little Rock, AR 72201

RE: Advisory Opinion # 91-05(1)

Dear Judge Rogers,

Your letter of October 17, 1991 inquires as to the propriety of your involvement with fund-raising activities to support a reception to be held following a continuing legal education seminar sponsored by the Arkansas Association of Women Lawyers.

Canon 1 of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct, first adopted by the Supreme Court in 1973 and re-adopted in 1988, requires that a judge participate in establishing, maintaining, enforcing, and observing high standards of conduct in order to preserve the integrity and independence of the judiciary. Accordingly, the task of this Committee is to interpret, construe, and apply the Code in a manner that accomplishes that objective.

The Arkansas Association of Women Lawyers appears to be a Canon 48 organization, that is, one Adevoted 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 the management and investment of the funds, but should not personally participate in public fund raising activities. That distinction is intended to insulate the judge from the donors and the donors from the judge, and thereby reduce the possible appearance of impropriety or lack of impartiality that is implicit in fund-raising by judges. Thode, Reporter's Notes to Code of Judicial Conduct (1973) 77. Accordingly, a judge may not personally contact individuals or corporate entities and solicit funds for the organization, regardless of whether the funds are to be used for educational activities, social functions, investments, or any other purpose. Even though the fund raising may be directed toward a single individual, it is still fund raising among members of the public. The dangers of perceived influence buying are just as great, and perhaps greater, when a donor gives money in response to a personal, Aprivate@ request from a judge. Judicial fund-raising may unintentionally create in the donor the impression that the donor is a special position to influence the judge. Canon 2(B). Such an impression does not create public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Canon 2(A).

Nor may a judge solicit funds by telephone or written correspondence. Nor may a judge solicit funds on personal stationary or from her residence. This rule is not avoided simply by the judge failing to identify herself or her position.

Canon 48 implies that a judge may personally participate in Aprivate@ fund-raising activities. But that interpretation should be limited to narrow situations involving, for example, fund-raising among relatives and other judges.

On the other hand, Canon 48 does permit the judge to assist in raising funds. For example, the judge may suggest to the organization the names of potential donors. The judge may participate in the planning of fund-raising activities. See Shaman, Lubet, and Alfini, Judicial Conduct and Ethics, (1990) Section 9.09. Non-judicial members or employees of the Canon 48 organization may contact donors. However, those non-judicial individuals should be careful not to suggest or imply that they are acting on behalf of, or with the knowledge of, the judge. The organization is not precluded from listing the judge as an officer, director, or trustee of the organization.

Relevant authority from other jurisdictions includes: Georgia Opinion 15 (1977) (judges may not solicit funds for the Judicial College of Georgia); Kansas Opinion JE-1 (1984) (judges may not raise funds in any way for the National Judges Education and Research Foundation, Inc.); Texas Opinion # 58 (1982) (judges may solicit funds for the Texas Center for the Judiciary); Texas Opinion # 131 (1989) (judges may not participate in any fund-raising activities for a committee to restore the courthouse dome).

Sincerely,

 

Bruce T. Bullion

Chairman

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