Serving as "Master of Ceremonies"
March 25, 1999
CJE Opinion No. 99-7
You have been asked to serve as "Master of Ceremonies" at an event honoring the Chief of Police of a city. You indicate that this event will raise funds for its sponsor, the YWCA of that city. You have told the committee in charge of the event that, if you were to serve, your name may not "appear on any ticket, letterhead, or advertisement for the event, or be connected with any fundraising." Your role as master of ceremonies would be to "introduce the head table, guest speakers, and run the program."
Our response to your request is controlled by Canon 5(B)(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct which provides that:
"[a] judge should not solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civi[c] 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. He should not be a speaker or guest of honor at an organization's fund raising events, but he may attend such events."
While you would not be the guest of honor at this event, your participation would clearly exceed mere attendance. As you note, you would essentially "run" the event's program. We do not read Canon 5(B)(2)'s reference to "speaker" as limited to an event's keynote speaker or other main speaker. As master of ceremonies, you would be called upon to speak throughout the evening. Indeed, a skillful master of ceremonies can often play a more significant role in an event's success than any of the other participants. Thus, your actions at the event would far exceed the type of passive participation which we concluded would not run afoul of the Code. See CJE Opinion No. 98-18 involving recognition of a judge and several others as past presidents of a bar association at the association's "Gala" fund-raiser.
Accordingly, we must conclude that your service as master of ceremonies would contravene Canon 5(B)(2). This conclusion appears to be in accord with the results reached by our counterparts in other jurisdictions. Compare New York Advisory Opinion 93-24 where a judge was advised not to serve as a master of ceremonies at an awards breakfast of a local service organization where a raffle was held to raise funds for another such breakfast; Illinois Advisory Opinion 96-3 where a judge was advised that his introduction of the honoree or the speaker at a fund-raiser would be precluded by the prohibition on being a speaker or guest of honor; and Florida Advisory Opinion 86-5 which indicated that a judge may not be one of several speakers at a charity's fund-raising event honoring a public figure in that state.