August 12, 2004
Digest: A town justice who is also a candidate for judicial office may not actively engage in a fund-raising effort to cover medical expenses for the child of a friend, and may not promise to set up and fund a legal scholarship, if elected.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.4(C); 100.5(A)(4)(d)(i); Opinions 89-49 (Vol. III); 90-69 (Vol. V); 95-76 (Vol. XIII).
A part-time town justice who is currently a candidate for judicial office makes two separate inquiries:
(1) May the judge actively engage in a fund-raising effort for the benefit of a child of a close friend who requires an organ transplant? The activity contemplated would involve “organizing and selling raffle tickets;” and
(2) May the judge promise to set up and fund a “legal scholarship” if elected?
It is the Committee’s view that the inquirer is prohibited from the described fund-raising activity, however laudable, by the explicit language of 22 NYCRR 100.4(C) as well as numerous opinions of this Committee. See e.g.; Opinions 89-49 (Vol. III), 90-69 (Vol. V), 95-76 (Vol. XIII). The fact that the solicitation is on behalf of an individual and not an organization is of no consequence. Of course, nothing herein limits the judge’s right to make a contribution in aid of meeting the medical expenses involved.
Further, it is the Committee’s opinion that the judge may not promise to set up and fund a “legal scholarship” if elected. Section 100.5(A)(4)(d)(i) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibits a candidate for judicial office from “making pledges or promises of conduct other than the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of the office.” That restriction is not limited to the handling of cases. Here, what is intended is a pledge or promise entirely unrelated to the “faithful and impartial performance” of judicial duties and thus impermissible.