2012-33 (December 12, 2012)
Extrajudicial Activities; Disqualification; Service on Board of Non-Law-Related Nonprofit Organization
May a Judicial Official serve as a member of a community advisory board for a hospital consortium that seeks state-funding for its health screening program?
Additional Facts: A Judicial Official has been asked to participate on an advisory board at a local hospital. The hospital, a not-for-profit acute care community hospital, is part of a hospital consortium that will be applying for a state grant to fund access to certain health screening for uninsured and underinsured clients. The consortium consists of five legally affiliated hospitals that are a part of a regional healthcare system.
Each grant recipient is required to develop, support and work with a standing community advisory board (“advisory board”). The purpose of such an advisory board is to “complement the knowledge and skills of the health screening program through representation of key stakeholders in the community service who can provide an external perspective on the program, advocate for the program, increase its visibility, provide guidance, communicate opinions, share expertise, support the coordination of services, and contribute to improving the health of the community.” Such an advisory board would serve in a non-binding advisory capacity. It would have no formal authority to govern the health screening program, nor would it have fiduciary responsibility. Decisions regarding how funds are allocated and used are determined at the administrative level of the regional healthcare system. The advisory board’s advocacy role is described as giving direction to the staff of the health screening program team on how best to recruit patients and raise community awareness of the program.
Each hospital in the consortium must submit the names of its own advisory board members and each member is required to submit a letter of support. According to a hospital representative, it is best if an advisory board member is either a person who has been afflicted with one of the diseases which is part of the health screening program or is a person known in the community.
The various hospitals that make up the consortium have over 2,100 cases, covering a 10 year period, listed on the Judicial Branch website. The vast majority of the cases are either collection matters or foreclosures (in which the hospital is a defendant due to its lien on the foreclosed property). Other cases include medical malpractice and defective premises claims.
Response: Rule 3.7(a)(6) of the Code states that a judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee, or nonlegal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization not conducted for profit, “unless it is likely that the organization or entity: (A) will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge; or (B) will frequently be engaged in adversary proceedings in the court of which the judge is a member or in any court subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the court of which the judge is a member.”
Based upon the information provided, including that the Judicial Official has been asked to serve as a non-legal advisor to a consortium of five hospitals that are frequently engaged in adversary proceedings in the Connecticut Superior Court, the Committee unanimously determined that the Judicial Official should not serve on the community advisory board consistent with the requirements of Rule 3.7(a)(6).