State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 99-07
May a judicial officer permit court staff to solicit contributions for a silent auction which will benefit a combined charities drive to raise money for various non-profit agencies? If court stationery may not be used for the solicitation, may it be sent out on city letterhead which does not refer to the court?
The city sponsors a combined charities drive to raise money for a variety of non-profit agencies. Various municipal departments sponsor activities. The chair for this year intends to use municipal court stationery to solicit donations from local business as part of the silent auction.
CJC Canon 3(B) provides in part that judges should require staff who are at the judges’ direction and control to observe the standards of fidelity and diligence that apply to judges. CJC Canon 5(B)(2) provides that judges should not use the prestige of their office to solicit contributions for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization.
Because of the prohibition in Canon 5(B)(2) a judicial officer may not permit the use of court stationery to solicit items for donation to an auction to raise money for various non-profit agencies as it would lend the prestige of judicial office to solicit contributions for a charitable purpose.
If the solicitation for donated articles were sent on the city’s letterhead and does not identify the employees in any way as working for the municipal court, the solicitation is permitted under Canon 5(B) because it would not be using the prestige of the office to solicit the contributions.
Also see Opinion 86-18.
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