Commonwealth of Virginia Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinion 99-3
Date Issued: September 21, 1999
Retired Judges's Soliciting Contributions For National Judicial College
May a retired judge solicit contributions for the National Judicial College and, if so, in what situations?
Answer: No, except that a judge may solicit contributions from other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority.
The National Judicial College (NJC) is a non-profit educational institution located in Reno, Nevada, dedicated to improving the legal system and the administration of justice by training and educating judges. The NJC has requested that a retired Virginia judge, who attended and graduated from courses there, assist the NJC by soliciting funds. The inquiry does not specify to whom the judge is requested to direct the solicitations, but typically the NJC solicits funds from judges who have attended educational courses there and from corporations, businesses, charitable endowments and other individuals.
The judge's inquiry to the Committee presents two questions: first, do the applicable Canons ever allow a judge to use the color of his or her office to solicit funds and, if so, in what situations; second, to the extent that the Canons prohibit a judge from soliciting funds, do the Canons apply to a retired judge?
Canon 4 provides: "A judge may engage in extra-judicial activities designed to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, and shall conduct any such extra-judicial activities in a manner that minimizes the risk of conflict with judicial obligations."
Canon 4C(3) expressly provides: "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 the following limitations and the other requirements of this Code. ... (b) A judge as an officer, directory, trustee or non-legal advisor, or as a member or otherwise: (I) 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, except that a judge may solicit funds from other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority." (emphasis supplied).
Canon 6B provides: "The provisions of ... these Canons shall apply to all retired judges. Such judges, however, are not required to comply with Canon 4C(2), D(3), E, F, G, and H(2)."
Accordingly, the Committee is of the opinion that because Canon 4C(3) applies to retired judges, a retired judge may not personally participate in the general solicitation of contributions for the National Judicial College. However, because the NJC is a not-for-profit educational organization devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system and the administration of justice, the judge may solicit contributions for the NJC, but only from other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority.
All opinions shall be advisory only, and no opinion shall be binding on the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission or the Supreme Court in the exercise of its judicial discipline responsibilities. However, the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission and the Supreme Court may in their discretion consider compliance with an advisory opinion by the requesting individual to be evidence of a good faith effort to comply with the Canons of Judicial Conduct provided that compliance with an opinion issued to one judge shall not be considered evidence of good faith of another judge unless the underlying facts are substantially the same. Order of the Supreme Court of Virginia entered January 5, 1999.
This page last modified: October 20, 1999