NOTE: Various references in this ethics opinion to portions of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct are no longer accurate due to amendments effective August 1, 2013. Click here to review language added to (which is underlined) and language stricken from (which is indicated by strikethrough) Canons 2, 4, 5, and 7.
July 2, 1993
A judge may participate as a model in a fashion show, the proceeds of which will be allocated to charitable purposes, provided that the judge's participation does not detract from the dignity of the judicial office or interfere with the judge's impartiality, and the judge does not solicit funds.
References: MCJC 5A and B; J-1; JI-3, JI-9, JI-33.
A judge asks whether it is unethical or improper to participate in a fashion show sponsored by the local child abuse and neglect council. The judges model clothing, but are unpaid and are not allowed to keep the clothing. The judges do not participate in the promotional activities, but promotional literature lists the judges who will appear as models. All funds raised are allocated to charitable purposes.
MCJC 5A and B state:
"A. A judge may write, lecture, teach, speak, and consult on nonlegal subjects, appear before public nonlegal bodies, and engage in the arts, sports, and other social and recreational activities, if such avocational activities do not detract from the dignity of his office or interfere with the performance of his judicial duties.
"B. A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon his impartiality or interfere with the performance of his judicial duties. A judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or nonlegal advisor of a bona fide educational, religious, fraternal or civic/charitable organization subject to the following limitations:
"(1) A judge should not serve if it is likely that the organization will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before him or will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court.
"(2) A judge should not individually solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of his office for that purpose, but he may be listed as an officer, director, or trustee of such an organization. A judge may, however, join a general appeal on behalf of an educational, religious, charitable, or fraternal organization, or speak on behalf of such organization."
The criteria for charitable activities by a judge are summarized in J-1:
- The activities may not detract from the dignity of the judicial office.
- The activities may not interfere with the performance of judicial duties.
- The activities may not reflect adversely on the judge's impartiality.
- The activities may not give the appearance of impropriety.
- The judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or nonlegal advisor of a bona fide educational, religious, fraternal or civic/charitable organization only if (a) it is unlikely that the organization will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge, (b) it is unlikely the organization will become engaged in adversary proceedings in any court, (c) the judge does not personally solicit funds, and (d) the prestige of the judicial office is not used for solicitation of funds.
In JI-3 the Committee opined that a judge may not participate by going door-to-door directly soliciting funds for charitable organizations. A judge may not personally solicit funds on behalf of any organization. JI-33. A judge may be the honoree at a testimonial dinner, as long as the proceeds of the dinner are allocated to a charitable purpose. JI-9.
In this inquiry, proceeds of the event will be used for charitable purposes. Modeling clothes does not detract from the dignity of the judicial function nor interfere with a judge's impartiality in the performance of judicial duties. Participation in the event, and being listed in promotional literature as participating in the event, is not unethical.