September 12, 2002
Digest: A judge may attend a fund-raising event sponsored by a local Black and Hispanic Coalition even though the organization may support endorsed candidates for elective public office.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q); 100.5(A)(1); 100.5(A)(2).
A judge inquires regarding the propriety of attending a fund-raising event sponsored by a local Black and Hispanic Coalition at a time outside of the judge’s “Window Period.” 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q).
The purpose of the Coalition is to unite blacks and hispanics in a local municipal area. Documents submitted by the judge indicate that the Coalition participates in elections by registering and reminding citizens to vote and to support certain candidates. The organization also provides transportation to the polls on Election Day. In addition funds raised at Coalition-sponsored events provide scholarships to deserving black and hispanic youths.
Generally, a judge may attend a fund-raising event sponsored by a not-for-profit cultural or civic organization. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii). However, a judge may not, directly or indirectly, engage in partisan political activity with the exception of certain political activity allowed during the judge’s Window Period when the judge is a candidate for elective judicial office. 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q); 100.5(A)(1). Prohibited activity includes attendance at a politically-sponsored event outside of the Window Period. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1); 100.5(A)(2).
The Coalition in the instant inquiry is not a partisan political organization. Although it does, apparently, endorse and support certain political candidates, that function is but one of a broad range of non-political non-partisan civic activities in which the organization engages. Thus the mere fact that one of many activities of this particular organization includes supporting certain endorsed candidates would not preclude a judge from mere attendance at a fund-raising event sponsored by that organization.
Under the circumstances presented, the judge may attend the fund-raising event sponsored by a local Black and Hispanic Coalition.