January 25, 2001
A judge may not attend a post-election victory party celebrating a neighbor's
election as a town board member, even if the event is not sponsored by
a political organization.
22 NYCRR 100.2(A); 100.5(A)(1)(g);
Opinions 99-18 (Vol. XVII), 88-132 (Vol. III).
A judge inquires whether it is permissible to attend a post-election victory party honoring a neighbor's recent election as a member of a town board. The inquirer states that the cost of the party is being paid by the successful candidate and his/her friends, and that no political party was involved in organizing or supporting it.
This Committee previously held that a judge should not attend a victory party for a re-elected state assemblyman, citing the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct barring judges (except those running for election) from purchasing tickets to politically sponsored dinners or other affairs, or attending such dinners or affairs. Opinion 88-132 (Vol. III). In the present matter, the affair is not sponsored by a political organization, but that does not make it any less political, since it involves a contest for an elective public office. As we stated recently, "[t]he fact that the election may not involve political parties does not make it any less political." Candidates are running against each other in a public election to public office. That makes it political. Opinion 99-18 (Vol. XVII). Thus, the victory celebration constitutes a political gathering within the meaning of section 100.5(A)(1)(g) of the Rules, which includes, as prohibited activity, "attending political gatherings". Moreover, section 100.2(A) of the Rules provides that every judge shall "act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." The fact that no political party was involved in organizing or financing the victory celebration does not mitigate against the possibility that the judge's attendance could give an impression of political partisanship.