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 14, 1995
A judge is not ethically prohibited from serving on the board of an area community foundation.
References: MCJC 5B; J-1.
A judge sits on the board and on the funding distribution committee of a public charity foundation which relies on community resources for funding support. The judge asks whether continued service is ethically permissible, as long as the judge does not personally solicit funds.
MCJC 5B states:
"A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon the judge's impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties. A judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee, or nonlegal advisor of a bona fide educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic 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 the judge 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 the office for that purpose, but 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."
J-1 outlines the conditions applicable to a judge's service on a charitable or civic board as follows:
- 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 foundation appears to qualify as a "bona fide" charitable institution and no information is given that the judge's service would otherwise contravene the standards summarized in J-1. Therefore, the judge is not ethically prohibited from serving on the board.