September 14, 2000
A judge running for election may attend a rally sponsored by civic associations
in opposition to a shopping mall project in the judge's township, but may
not speak publicly on such issues at the rally, and should recuse himself/herself
in the event proceedings involving the matter come before the judge.
22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.4(A);
Opinion 97-54 (Vol. XV).
A judge who is a candidate for election to the same judicial office inquires whether the judge may attend a rally called by civic associations to voice opposition to planned development of a shopping mall in the judge's township. While the judge indicates at least a passive personal opposition to the plan, the letter of inquiry makes it clear that being seen attending such rallies would be "politically advantageous."
Attending civic association events is not forbidden to judges, provided that such activity does not violate section 100.4(A) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct which provides as follows:
(A) Extra-Judicial Activities in General
Thus, in a related context, the Committee, in Opinion 97-54 (Vol. XV), advised that a judge should not be a member of an organization that engages in lobbying and political activity in support of legalized abortion, but could attend a reception sponsored by the group. As stated by the Committee:A judge shall conduct all of the judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do not:
(1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge;
(2) detract from the dignity of judicial office; or
(3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties and are not incompatible with judicial office.
We are of the opinion that the same result is warranted in this instance. Thus, the judge should not speak publicly at such rallies about the matter in dispute. The fact that the judge is a candidate for judicial office, does not alter the fact that the matter is controversial and not something about which the judge should publicly express his or her views. Further, in the event proceedings involving the development come before the judge, the judge should exercise recusal, subject to the remittal. But this does not mean that the judge is forbidden from engaging in conventional political activity related to his or her campaign for judicial office, at such events.However, mere attendance at a function sponsored by the organization without any further activity manifesting support for the organization or concurrence with its purpose and goals would not violate the limitations expressed in section 100.4(A) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct; nor would it constitute an appearance of impropriety. 22 NYCRR 100.2.