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Frequently Asked Questions - Judicial Candidates

The Judicial Campaign Ethics Center is part of the New York State Unified Court System’s Office of Court Administration. Our role is educational and advisory in nature; the Center is not charged with investigative or disciplinary powers.

This page is intended primarily for judicial candidates and those who are working on a judicial candidate's campaign. If you are a voter or other member of the public, you may wish to start with the General Questions.


Candidate Questions

- How can I find out whether something I want to do in my campaign is permissible?*

- What if I have a problem with something my opponent does in the campaign?

- What is the "window period"?

- Is there currently a "known judicial vacancy"?

- What financial disclosures must I make?

- What contribution limits apply to my campaign?

- What are the Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commissions (IJEQCs)?*

- Is the IJEQC review mandatory?

- What is the Mandatory Judicial Campaign Ethics Training?*

- What are some of the limitations in a judicial race that do not apply to other elective offices?*

- Are the rules different for Town & Village Justice candidates?


Note: Questions marked above with an asterisk (*) will take you to another web page. The remaining questions are answered below.

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How can I find out whether something I want to do in my judicial campaign would be permissible?

If you are not sure, you should ask the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center.


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What if I have a problem with something my opponent does in the campaign?

The Judicial Campaign Ethics Center only responds to questions about a candidate's own proposed conduct and cannot answer questions about the conduct of opponents.

If you have a complaint about your opponent's conduct, you may wish to consult a Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee in a local bar association. Those committees are designed to help mediate conflicts among judicial candidates.

Under some circumstances it may also be possible to file a complaint about a judge or attorney who is running for judicial office.

In addition, the Rules permit a candidate to "respond to personal attacks on the candidate's record as long as the response" complies with the limitations on judicial campaign speech (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][4][e]). Please see Opinions 01-98 and 12-129(A)-(G) (at Question 4 and footnote 5), for important cautions and general guidance. You may also request guidance on your specific proposed response (e.g., draft campaign materials).


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What is the "window period"?

The "window period" is the period during which judges and non-judges who seek an elective judicial office may engage in limited political activity pursuant to Section 100.5 of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. It is defined as follows:

"Window Period" denotes a period beginning nine months before a primary election, judicial nominating convention, party caucus or other party meeting for nominating candidates for the elective judicial office for which a judge or non-judge is an announced candidate, or for which a committee or other organization has publicly solicited or supported the judge's or non-judge's candidacy, and ending, if the judge or non-judge is a candidate in the general election for that office, six months after the general election, or if he or she is not a candidate in the general election, six months after the date of the primary election, convention, caucus or meeting.

(Source: 22 NYCRR 100.0[Q]).

For guidance on calculating the start and end of the window period, see Section 2.2.3 of the Judicial Campaign Ethics Handbook as well as Committee opinions.

Please note that the end of the window period is strictly construed. See Opinion 91-67 (recently elected judge may not attend political event held “six months and one day after the general election”).


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Is there currently a "known judicial vacancy"?

A known vacancy in the prospective judicial office is a necessary prerequisite to a judge or non-judge’s announcement of his/her candidacy and commencement of campaign activities (see Opinion 09-40 [citing prior opinions]). As the Committee noted in Opinion 14-178:

When a judicial vacancy arises at the end of a judge’s full term of office, or when a judge’s term otherwise ends early by operation of law due to the judge’s age, calculation of the window period is relatively straightforward according to the principles outlined above. In such circumstances, there is no doubt a judicial vacancy will occur as of a certain date. Similarly, if a judge has resigned or died, or has been removed from office, there is no doubt a judicial vacancy currently exists. In any of these circumstances, if the judicial office is an elective one, it is certain that an election must be held in a particular year to fill the vacancy (see N.Y. Const., Art. VI, § 21).
In other circumstances, however, there is some uncertainty about whether a vacancy will arise in a particular election year, and whether or not there is a "known judicial vacancy" is a fact-dependent determination. So far, the Committee has addressed a few of these circumstances:
  • Incumbent announces retirement, but has not yet retired (compare Opinion 99-14 with Opinion 15-04)
  • Incumbent may receive an interim appointment to a higher office, subject to confirmation by the legislature (see Opinion 97-45)
  • Incumbent has been elected to a higher office, but has not yet taken and filed the oath of office (see Opinion 14-178)
Candidates are invited to write in for further guidance on their specific circumstances.


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What financial disclosures must I make as a judicial candidate?

The Judicial Campaign Ethics Center does not handle financial disclosure matters, including those involving Rule 100.5(A)(4)(g). Inquiries about financial disclosure requirements for judicial candidates in New York State should be directed to the responsible agency.

For your convenience, however, we have provided contact information and links to two of these agencies:

For other applicable disclosure rules and requirements, contact the appropriate board of elections or campaign finance agency.


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What contribution limits apply to my campaign?

The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct (22 NYCRR pt 100) do not address campaign contribution limits, which is primarily a legal question under the Election Law.

You may wish to consult an attorney for guidance on relevant contribution limits, or visit the "Contribution Limits" page of the New York State Board of Elections website.

In addition, Part 151 of the Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge sets certain contribution thresholds that operate at the administrative level (without any involvement by the judge, parties, or counsel) to help ensure that cases involving a judge’s larger campaign contributors are not assigned to the judge for a two-year period (22 NYCRR 151).


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Is the IJEQC process mandatory?

The screening process is designed to ensure that voters are provided with as much information as possible about the qualifications of judicial candidates. In accordance with the Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge establishing the IJEQCs and the opinion of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, the screening process is voluntary.

For more information about the Independent Judicial Election Qualifications Commissions, including contact information and application process, please visit the IJEQC website.


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Are the rules different for Town & Village Justice candidates?

Candidates for election to Town Justice or Village Justice positions are generally subject to the same ethical standards as other judicial candidates throughout their campaigns.

Thus Town and Village Justice candidates, like all other judicial candidates, should review the applicable Rules and consult the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center for guidance as needed. (Many candidates also find the Handbook helpful in locating potentially relevant Opinions.)

However, candidates for election to town or village courts are not required to:

  • complete the campaign ethics training program approved by the Chief Administrator of the Courts (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][4][f]) or
  • file a financial disclosure statement with the Ethics Commission for the Unified Court System (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][4][g]).
Please note: Because they are held to the same ethical standards as other candidates, Town and Village Justice candidates are encouraged to view the campaign ethics training program, even though the training is not mandatory for them.


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