State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 92-01
May a judicial officer serve as a board member of a legal aid fund, the purpose of which is to seek sources of private funding for civil legal services to supplement diminishing public funding?
The following facts were provided to the Committee: 1) The judicial officer's participation would be restricted to advising and consulting on matters of policy and strategy and to requesting the assistance of others whose activities are not restricted by the Code of Judicial Conduct in fundraising and other activities of the legal aid fund; 2) the judicial officer would not solicit any funds for the organization or permit the judicial officer's name to be used in connection with the solicitation of funds, including its use of the organization's letterhead when funds are being solicited; 3) the legal aid fund is a not-for-profit corporation; the board includes representatives from law firms, bar organizations and the three federally-funded legal services programs in Washington; and the fundraising efforts will include a private bar campaign, grants from foundations and corporations, direct mail campaigns and special events; and 4) the law fund only gathers funds and is not a direct provider of legal services.
CJC Canon 4(C) specifically provides that judges may serve as directors of organizations which are devoted to the law, the legal system and the administration of justice. Because the purpose of the legal aid fund is to raise private funds in order to provide poor people with access to the justice system, therefore, is consistent with improving the legal system and the administration of justice, a judicial officer may serve on the legal aid fund board.
A judicial officer may assist the organization which is raising funds and may participate in its management and investment decisions but should not personally participate in public fundraising activities. CJC Canon 4(C).
It may appear that this opinion conflicts with Opinion 90-7 which prohibits a judicial officer from serving as a board member of the United Way because the sole purpose of that organization is to raise and distribute charitable donations. However, CJC Canon 4(C) creates a limited exception to the nonsolicitation rule with regard to organizations that are devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system and the administration of justice.
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