Opinion No. 00-1
April 18, 2000
Topic: Judge Participation as Director of a Family Charitable Foundation.
Digest: A judge may serve as a director of a family charitable foundation.
References: Illinois Supreme Court Rule 65B.
A judge has been asked to serve as a director of a family charitable foundation which was administered by a close friend who is now deceased. The foundation contributes to non-profit organizations, primarily to cultural organizations and to medical research and educational programs. It does not raise funds, nor is it involved in adversarial proceedings in court.
As director, the judge would perform primarily clerical work and would not participate in identifying grant recipients. These are activities s/he performed when s/he was a director before s/he assumed the bench and resigned his/her directorship.
May a judge serve as a director of a family charitable foundation?
A judge may serve as a director of a family charitable foundation. Rule 65B specifically provides:
A Judge may serve as a…director…of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members 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 solicit or permit his or her name to be used in any manner to solicit funds or other assistance for any such organization…
The judge will not be in violation of Rule 65B by participating as a director of this foundation. The foundation is charitable, it does not ordinarily come before the court, nor is it engaged in adversarial proceedings. Thus the prohibition in the Rules would not apply to the judge's participation.
Finally, should the recipients of the foundation funds appear before the judge, the judge could recuse him or herself to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Additionally, since the foundation does not solicit funds, the judge would not have to ask to have his name removed on fundraising letters.