State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 97-15
Private non-profit foundations have a long and successful record of helping enrich municipal programs. The court’s juror accommodations could use improvement. However, the necessary funds have not been approved by the city council. Because it is unlikely that funding for these needs will be approved in the future, it has been suggested that the city look to the private sector for help in improving the juror experience. This led to the idea for the formation of a jury services foundation, a non-profit entity, with the purpose of soliciting funds and materials to upgrade the existing juror facilities, assist with furnishing of the juror assembly area in the new courthouse and provide juror stipend donations.
The city neighborhood group has agreed, in principal, to act as fiscal agent for the foundation and provide administrative support to the board of directors. As the fiscal agent, the city neighborhood group provides a legal entity through which funds and goods donated to the foundation may pass to the court for juror related improvements. The city neighborhood group also retains title to materials (furniture and fixtures) that are donated by the private sector, through the foundation, for the jurors. The city’s ethical criteria for foundation endowments to city departments is maintained.
The city neighborhood group is a non-profit corporation recognized by the state and the IRS and is subject to an annual independent audit, with financial statements provided to all fiscal agent projects. It has acted as fiscal agent for many civic and neighborhood projects.
The first board of directors will guide the foundation in a number of critical ways. This board will write the foundation’s mission statement, the by-laws, oversee the incorporation process and create the framework for the solicitation of funds, services and goods, and direct the disbursement of the same. The majority of the board members will be citizens, with no relationship to the court except, hopefully, to have served as jurors. Appointments to the board will reflect the diversity of the community. Three board members will represent the prosecutors, public defenders and the judiciary.
CJC Canon 4(C) and 5(B) provide that judges may serve as members of, and also on the board of, directors of organizations that are dedicated to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice or civic organizations that are not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members. With respect to law related organizations, the judge may assist an organization in raising funds and may participate in their management and investment, but they should not personally solicit contributions from the public. For civic organizations, judges should not use the prestige of their office to solicit contributions. In both cases, judges may pay to attend fundraising events but they may not be either a speaker or a guest of honor at those events.
See also Opinion 93-3.
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