State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 98-07
May a judicial officer serve as the chair of the board of a non-profit civic organization?
The chair has the following responsibilities: presiding at the annual dinner thanking donors for their support; recruiting leadership for a youth campaign; presiding at the opening of new facilities which have been made possible through contributions; periodically discussing the youth campaign at directors’ meetings and encouraging directors to volunteer their time to make calls; meeting with representatives of various funding organizations regarding contributions to the non-profit organization; and giving presentations at the organization’s programs and speaking in behalf of the organization with businesses who at some point may be asked to make a financial contribution to the organization.
CJC Canon 5(B) provides that judges may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not interfere with the performance of their judicial duties provided the organization does not regularly appear before the judicial officer or regularly engage in adversary proceedings. Judicial officers may not use the prestige of their office to solicit contributions for a civic or charitable organization. Therefore, a judicial officer may serve as the chair of the board of a non-profit civic organization subject to those limitations. The judicial officer should advise the board and the fundraising staff that the prestige of the judicial office may not be used in support of fund raising activities and therefore, letterhead used for fundraising purposes should exclude any reference to the chair/judicial officer’s office.
When determining the appropriateness of participating in particular activities of an organization or in determining if it is proper to become affiliated with an organization or to remain affiliated with an organization, a judicial officer should review the criteria outlined in Opinion 93-19.
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