State of Washington
Ethics Advisory Committee
- May a judicial officer, through a program director and advisory board members, solicit financial support from local governments and corporations for the "Young Adult Court Mentor Program"?
- Is it acceptable to use court stationery for written requests for financial support?
- May the program director open a bank account in the name of the court to be used for the payment of program expenses?
- May a judicial officer serve on the advisory board which oversees and advises the program director provided that the judge does not engage in fundraising activities?
- May a judicial officer send letters of support to potential funders of this program? The letters would state that this is a court sponsored program and that community support (without specifying financial support) is crucial for its success.
- Alternatively, may the program be established by a non-profit corporation with the court establishing the policies and procedures and the corporation's board of directors responsible for fundraising?
The following representations were made to the Committee: 1) the court is considering establishing a "Young Adult Court Mentor Program" for young adults between the ages of 17 and 25 who lack basic "life skills" and who would be ordered into the program as part of their sentence following conviction of a crime; 2) these defendants would be paired with a "mentor" who would be trained by a part-time program director; 3) the director would be responsible to and supervised by the judges of the court; 4) an advisory board comprised of community leaders would also exist to assist and advise the director; 5) funds are necessary to hire a part-time director and pay for supplies; and 6) local governments and corporations would be contacted for financial support by the director and advisory board members.
CJC Canon 4 permits judicial officers to engage in activities involved in the law, the legal system and the administration of justice, if in doing so they do not cast doubt on their capacity to decide any issue that would come before them. Canon 4(A) provides in part that they may speak and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system and the administration of justice. Canon 4(B) provides that they may appear at a public hearing before a governmental body or official on matters concerning the law, the legal system and the administration of justice, and they may otherwise consult with them, but only on matters concerning the administration of justice. Canon 4(C) provides that judicial officers may serve as members, officers, or directors of an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. Canon 4(C) also provides that judicial officers may assist the organization in raising funds and may participate in their management and investment, but should not personally participate in public fund raising activities. Finally, judicial officers may make recommendations to public and private fund granting agencies on programs concerning the law, the legal system and the administration of justice.
- A court may not, through a program director who is a court employee, solicit financial support from corporations for the "Young Adult Court Mentor Program." Because the program director is an employee supervised by the judges that could create the appearance that the judicial officer is permitting the program director, as a surrogate, to do something on the judicial officers' behalf that the judicial officer is prohibited from doing, that is, personally soliciting funds. The members of the advisory board are permitted to personally solicit funds if it is done independently of the court and its employees.
- CJC Canon 4(C) prohibits judicial officers from personally soliciting funds for any purpose including activities which advance or promote the law, the legal system and the administration of justice, therefore, court stationery should not be used for written requests for financial support from non-government sources.
- The Code of Judicial Conduct precludes the program director from opening a bank account to be used for the payment of program expenses in the court's name.
- A judicial officer is permitted by Canon 4 to send letters of support to potential funders of the program which would not ask for financial support but which would state this is a court sponsored program and that community support is critical to its success.
4. and 6. CJC Canon 4(C) permits a judicial officer to serve on the advisory board which oversees and advises the program director provided the judicial officer does not personally engage in fundraising activities for private monies. A judicial officer may, however, personally solicit financial support from local governments. Alternatively, the program may be established by a non-profit corporation with the court participating in establishing the policies and procedures and the corporation's board of directors responsible for fundraising for private monies.
The Supreme Court adopted a new Code of Judicial Conduct effective January 1, 2011. In addition to reviewing the ethics advisory opinions, the following should be noted:
CJC 3.7 Comment