Participating in charitable fund-raising

In the recently published summer issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter, there is an article on participating in charitable fund-raising events (a follow-up to the article in the spring issue on “defining ‘charitable fund-raising event’”). The article reveals some consensus but also some splits among the state advisory committees and even over time on what types of participation are permissible and which are over-the-line for judges.

There may be a more lenient attitude developing toward judicial participation in fund-raising, particularly when a judge’s status as a judge is downplayed and his or her status as a member of the community is emphasized. Thus, a judge can solicit contributions from family members, since it is the family relationship, not the judicial office that is important there, and may under most circumstances be just one of the members of a band playing at an event or one of waiters at a dinner or one of the walkers in a walk-athon. But a judge cannot act as a celebrity waiter or run a 100-yard-dash in her robe or participate in a “dunk-the-judge” booth to raise funds.

So far no advisory committee has issued a formal, public opinion on whether judges may participate in the viral ice bucket challenge that has raised so much money for ALS research.  But the principles announced in previous opinions should be transferable.

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