January 27, 2000
An appearance by the county chair of a political party before the county
committee, for the purpose of securing a resolution supporting the chair
for the position of Supreme Court justice, constitutes a public announcement
of candidacy and requires the chair to resign from office immediately.
22 NYCRR 100.0(A); 100.5(A)(1).
The inquirer seeks an opinion as to what constitutes a "public announcement of candidacy" under section 100.0(A) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. 22 NYCRR 100.0(A). In particular, the inquirer, who is the county chair of a political party, wishes to know whether by speaking at a meeting of the county committee, which then adopts and circulates to the other county committees of the judicial district, a resolution supporting the chair for the position of Supreme Court justice, he or she has made a "public announcement of candidacy."
In our opinion, the circumstances described amount to a "public announcement" by the inquirer of his or her candidacy for the position of Supreme Court justice. This is not merely a "testing of the waters" by a prospective candidate who personally seeks to raise the issue of a possible candidacy by contacting political leaders. Here, the inquirer is the political leader, and anticipates that the county committee, which he or she heads, will be soliciting political support for the candidacy from the other county committees of the judicial district. Under the circumstances, the appearance before the county committee constitutes a "public announcement of candidacy," under section 100.5(A) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.
Further, neither a judge nor a candidate for judicial office is allowed to act as a leader or hold an office in a political organization. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1). Accordingly, as the inquirer recognizes, he or she must resign as county chair upon becoming a candidate. The resignation should take place as soon as possible, which, in this instance, means immediately upon appearing before the county committee, as described.