August 29, 1995


Participation as board member of YMCA

In re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your Inquiry Dated June 19, 1995


You have raised several questions concerning your board membership in your local YMCA:


1. What role, if any, may I play in a fund raising campaign in which the actual solicitation of funds is done by teams, headed by captains, who are recruited by division leaders, all of whom report to a chairman.

2. A small percentage of the budget for the YMCA is received from the local United Way. To what extent, if any, may I participate in a presentation to the United Way (or other groups who might make contributions to the YMCA) informing the group of the YMCA'S purposes, programs, and specifically how those programs meet the needs of target groups which the United Way, or other groups, would like to support?

In some situations, as in the United Way, these presentations are made for the express purpose of getting these agencies or groups to agree to contribute money to the YMCA. Other presentations, such as to civic groups, would be to promote good public relations and would not be a direct solicitation for funds. However, it is likely that the purpose of such presentations would be to increase the membership in the YMCA or to increase participation in the YMCA programs, most of which is fee based.

3. A related question would be what role, if any, may I play in the production of audio visual materials produced for the purpose of promoting and advertising the Y and its programs? Again, such audio visual materials might be used in presentations for general purposes, but might also be used in a presentation to the United Way or similar group when seeking funding sources. What role, if any, might I play in the production of such materials?

Canon 5C(3)(b)(i) allows a judge to aid an organization such as the YMCA in planning fund raising. That Canon also allows a judge to "participate in the management and investment of the organization's funds," but it prohibits a judge from personally participating in fund-raising activities. I would also add that Canon 5C(3)(b)(ii) prevents a judge from personally participating in membership solicitation if the activity could reasonably be viewed as coercive or a fund-raising mechanism not allowed by Canon 5C(3)(b)(i). The commentary to the Canon provides:

A judge must not engage in direct, individual solicitation for funds or memberships in person, in writing or by telephone except in the following cases: 10 (sic) a judge may solicit for funds or memberships other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority, 20 (sic) a judge may solicit other person (sic) for membership in the organizations described above if either those persons nor persons with whom they are affiliated are likely ever to appear before the court on which the judge serves and 3) a judge who is an officer of such an organization may send a general membership solicitation mailing over the judge's signature.

Canon 5C(3)(b)(iii) also states that a judge "shall not use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising or membership solicitation."

Therefore, in response to the (sic) your question, the seven responding members of the Committee unanimously agree that you may participate only in planning the YMCA's fundraising campaign and/or the management and investment of the funds raised. As to your second question, six of the responding members find that you may not participate in a presentation to the United Way or organizations, as the goal of such presentations appears to be fund-raising. The seventh responding member of the Committee agreed that you cannot participate in presentations where fundraising is the express purpose of the presentation, but also stated:

I would find that [you are] permitted to make presentations to civic groups for the purpose of promoting good public relations, even if such appearances might have indirect consequences of increasing membership or funding of the YMCA. My understanding is that a speech to a civic group, such as Kiwanis or Rotary, is, by its nature, noncoercive, and I find it unlikely that the judge's mere appearance at the podium of such group would be a misuse of the prestige of judicial office.

Finally, all responding members of the Committee advise you not to appear in the audio-video produced for the purpose of advertising the YMCA. In Opinion 90-19 the Committee held that a judge could not appear in a video describing a Boys Ranch as a general request for assistance was made at the end of the video. Similarly, you have indicated that the YMCA video could be used be (sic) used (sic) by the organization when seeking funding. As such, your appearance in the video would be contrary to Canon 5C(3)(b)(I). Additionally, you can not participate behind the scenes to solicit known personalities to participate in the production or to solicit contributions for the costs of production. Such activities were disapproved in Opinion 94-30.

The Committee is expressly charged with rendering advisory opinions interpreting the application of the Code of Judicial Conduct to specific circumstances confronting or affecting a judge or judicial candidate. Its opinions are advisory to the inquiring party, to the Judicial Qualifications Commission and to the judiciary at large. Conduct that is consistent with an advisory opinion issued by the Committee may be evidence of good faith on the part of the judges, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions by the Committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, 327 So.2d 5 (Fla. 19