January 27, 2000
Digest: A judge may serve on a bar association’s attorney grievance committee but may not serve on a panel that reviews the association’s judiciary committee’s ratings of candidates for judicial office.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4 ( C)(3); 100.5 (A)(1)(e); Opinions 88-100 (Vol II); 89-116/121 (Vol. IV); 95-49 (Vol XIII).
A town justice who is president-elect of the county bar association asks two questions: (1) whether it is permissible to serve on the bar association’s attorney grievance committee, and (2) whether, as president-elect of the bar association, it is permissible to serve on a standing panel of the association that hears appeals or protests from candidates for judicial office who have been found by the association’s judiciary committee to be “not qualified”.
As to service on the bar association’s attorney grievance committee, the Committee in Opinion 95-49 (Vol XIII), stated that there was “no ethical objection to such service. It should be noted that judges serve in related matters throughout the State, e.g., Appellate Division justices passing on the disciplining of attorneys.” Serving on such a committee is, therefore, a permitted extra-judicial activity. 22 NYCRR 100.4 ( C)(3).
We have a different view with respect to serving on a panel reviewing the bar association’s “not qualified” evaluation of candidates for judicial office. The judge should not participate in any way in the rating of candidates for judicial office. As pointed out in Opinion 88-100 (Vol II) and 89-116/121 (Vol IV), such involvement could readily be perceived as “public endorsing” a candidate for judicial office, or in this instance, “publicly opposing” a candidate for judicial office, both of which are prohibited under section 10.5 (A)(1)(e) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. Indeed, as noted in these opinions, there is an obligation to publicly disassociate the judge from the bar association’s rating of candidates for judicial office, regardless of whether that rating is positive or negative. This is particularly pertinent here, where the judge is the president-elect of the bar association.