1997-05: Judge serving as trustee of charitable foundation.

Opinion No. 97-5
May 7, 1997

TOPIC: Judge serving as trustee of charitable foundation.

DIGEST: A judge may serve as a trustee of a charitable foundation if it would not reflect adversely on his or her impartiality or interfere with his or her judicial duties and the organization is not likely to be engaged in proceedings that would come before the judge.

REFERENCES: Illinois Supreme Court Rules 65B, 65B(1) and 65D; Illinois Judicial Ethics Opinion Nos. 93-5 and 97-9.

FACTS
A foundation was set up under the will of a wealthy decedent providing for the appointment of a number of trustees who would oversee the investment of the foundation's funds and make grants pursuant to the goals of the foundation. The judge has been asked to be a trustee for the foundation. The judge does not believe participation as a trustee would affect his or her impartiality or interfere with his or her judicial duties.

QUESTION
May a judge serve as trustee of such a foundation?

OPINION
Yes. Rule 65B permits a judge to participate in charitable activities that do not reflect adversely on the judge's impartiality or interfere with the performance of his or her judicial duties. The judge may serve as a trustee of a charitable foundation as long as it is not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members, and it is unlikely that the foundation will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge or will regularly be engaged in adversary proceedings in any court. (Rule 65B(1)) (See IJEC Opinion Nos. 93-5 and 97-9).
Rule 65D is not applicable to the present inquiry. It is directed at probable proceedings and prohibits a judge from serving as a personal trustee or other fiduciary except for a member of the judge's family.
Before accepting an appointment as a trustee however, a judge should review carefully the purposes of the foundation and should decline participation in the foundation if it might compromise his or her impartially.