Ethics Opinion 220

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics committee Opinions

Opinion #220 – 12/20/1971 (52-71)

Topic: Contribution by attorney to non-profit organization to provide bail for indigent persons
Digest: Attorney may contribute to non-profit organization directed by non­attorneys whose primary purpose is to provide bail for indigent persons
Code: DR 5-103 (B); DR 2-101(A) and (B)

QUESTION

May an attorney financially contribute to a non-profit organization organized and directed by non-attorneys whose primary purpose is to provide bail for indigent persons charged with a crime?

OPINION

In ABA 259 (1943) it was held, despite former Canon 42 (the predecessor of DR 5-103(B)), that the Committee on War Work of the American Bar Association could properly finance costs in cases for indigent servicemen from funds provided for that purpose, and a lawyer member of that Committee could, with propriety, subscribe to such a fund. No reason appears why, absent any improper motive, a lawyer may not con tribute to a non-lawyer administered non-profit organization, the purpose of which is to post bail for indigent persons charged with crime.  Such action would not constitute the stirring up of litigation, nor would it place the lawyer in a position of having an interest in litigation which might influence his professional judgment.The making of a contribution to the described organization should not be publicized in any manner, DR 2-101(A) and (B); in any event, an attorney making such a contribution, should not permit that fact to constitute an inducement for professional employment. Cf. Insurance Law Sec. 331-a(4); N.Y. State 213 (1971).

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