Opinion: 01-21

March 8, 2001

Digest:  A candidate for judicial office, whether a sitting judge or a non-judge, may not make a payment to a political party's campaign committee that is supporting all candidates being endorsed by the party, nor make any payment to the party in order to be considered for its endorsement, but may only reimburse the committee for his or her proportionate share of the campaign costs.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(h);
           100.5(A)(2); 100.5(A)(3);
           Opinion 91-94 (Vol. VIII).


            A town judge who is running for re-election seeks the opinion of the Committee concerning the obtaining of the endorsement of a local political party. Under the constitution and by-laws of the party, a person who seeks its endorsement must accompany the request with a "certified check in the amount of $2,500.00 made payable to the Treasurer of the Endorsed Candidates Committee." Such sum is to be used to support the endorsed candidates for town offices in the payment of campaign expenses. In the event the applicant does not receive the party endorsement, the $2,500.00 is immediately refunded.

            The judge asks whether it is permissible to comply with the requirement of payment of the $2,500.00.

            Compliance by a candidate for judicial office with the requirement of a monetary payment which will be used to support all party candidates for various town offices and which is deemed to be a prerequisite for being considered for the nomination, would clearly be ethically improper. In Opinion 91-94 (Vol. VIII) the inquiring judge who was seeking re-election, asked whether it was permissible to contribute to the campaign fund for the slate of candidates, which included the judge, for the purpose of covering campaign costs being provided by the party on behalf of the slate. The Committee held that it would be improper to make such a contribution. Section 100.5(A)(1)(h) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct forbids a judge from "paying an assessment to, or making a contribution to a political organization or candidate." That is precisely what is being required of the judge herein, and the fact that the judge is running for judicial office does not alter the prohibition. And, although, on its face, the prohibition applies to judges, it likewise applies to non-judges who seek judicial office, since the payment is clearly not an ordinary assessment or an ordinary contribution to the organization. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(3).

            A candidate for judicial office may, of course, contribute to his or her own campaign (22 NYCRR 100.5[A][2]), and may appropriately reimburse a campaign committee representing a slate of candidates, for his or her proportionate share of the campaign costs (Opinion 91-94 [Vol. VIII]). But that is not what is involved in this matter. Rather, what is being required is a contribution to a political organization, both for the purpose of being considered for the nomination and for the running of a campaign that includes all party candidates collectively. It would be unethical for a judicial candidate to make such a contribution. We therefore advise the inquiring judge not to make the requested payment.