June 12, 2003
Digest: (1) A judge who is a candidate for judicial office may, during the Window Period, purchase two tickets to and attend a fund-raising event sponsored by a not-for-profit advocacy organization that promotes equal rights for gay and lesbians, but should request that the organization limit the use of the funds raised from the judge’s purchase of the tickets to the educational arm of the organization. (2) A judge should not participate in a “ride along” program with the local police department.(3) A judge may serve on the county Domestic Violence Consortium which includes representatives from all components of the community. (4) A judge may make a contribution to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Rules: 100.0(Q);100.1;100.2(A);100.4(A)(1);100.4(a)(3);100.4(C)(3); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(i); 100.4(C)(3)(b)(iv); 100.5; 100.5(A)(1)(h); 100.5(A)(2) Opinions 89-46 (Vol. III); 93-99 (Vol. XI); 95-34 (Vol. XIII); 96-38 (Vol. XIV); 97-100; 98-101; 99-92; 99-111; 00-54; 00-56; 00-92
A judge asks several questions concerning to what extent, if any, the judge may participate in activities of a “not-for-profit organization that promotes equal rights for gay and lesbian New Yorkers in the public and private arenas.” In addition, the judge asks about the propriety of (1) participating in a “ride along” with police on patrol in order “to get a sense of what a police officer does on patrol,” (2) serving on a county Domestic Violence Consortium, and (3) contributing to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The judge describes the function of the not-for-profit organization in question as comprising various arms that are apparently separately incorporated. One arm performs educational activities. Another arm, which is non-partisan, endorses political candidates of all parties who support the organization’s goals.
This Committee previously discussed the propriety of a judge’s participation in various partisan and non-partisan political organizations in Opinion 98-101 (Vol. XVII). In that opinion, the Committee pointed out that pursuant to section 100.4(C)(3) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, a judge may be a member "of an educational, religious, charitable, cultural, fraternal or civic organization not conducted for profit" subject to certain restrictions and limitations. These restrictions and limitations include those activities that "cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge" (22 NYCRR 100.4[A]), or "interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties . . ." (22 NYCRR 100.4[A]), or involve the judge "in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities" (22 NYCRR 100.4[C][b][i]). Further, a judge may not engage in prohibited political activity as specified in section 100.5 of the Rules. Given this backdrop the Committee then determined that the differences among various organizations cited within that opinion called for different responses.
For example, the League of Women Voters, as noted by the Committee in Opinion 96-38 (Vol. XIV) is a non-partisan organization that facilitates the dissemination to the electorate of views of candidates for elective office but does not itself take positions concerning political issues or candidates. Based upon that understanding, the Committee saw no ethical objection to the inquirer's participation. Opinions 96-38 (Vol. XIV); 98-101 (Vol. XVII). On the other hand, the Committee, citing Opinion 93-99 (Vol. XI), determined that the membership in the National Women's Political Caucus which "identifies viable candidates for judicial office and assists them in getting elected through financial contributions, campaign volunteers and technical assistance" would constitute impermissible political conduct and thus violate section 100.5 of the Rules.
When addressing participation in activities of Planned Parenthood, Inc. and the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Committee determined that although both groups engaged in a variety of activities that a judge could readily be associated with (e.g. education about the Bill of Rights, women's health counseling, etc.), the groups are also involved in matters of public controversy, including an involvement in litigation. Taking such concerns into account, the Committee concluded that while there was no per se prohibition against membership in either organization, a judge should take care that such membership does not involve the judge in being associated with matters that are the subject of litigation or public controversy. Further, should either organization appear in the judge's court, there should be recusal.
In the instant inquiry, it appears that the organization in question is political and more akin to an organization like the National Women’s Political Caucus than the others. As such, the judge should not maintain membership in the organization.
The judge, however, may purchase two tickets to and attend a fund-raising event sponsored by the organization during the Window Period when the judge is a candidate for elective judicial office. The judge must request that the organization limit the use of the funds raised from the judge’s purchase of the ticket(s) to the educational arm of the organization. But, the judge should not attend the organization’s fund-raising events if such events are scheduled outside that judge’s Window Period. 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q); 100.5(A)(2). To do so would be lending the prestige of judicial office to support the organization which, as stated, does engage in political activity. 22 NYCRR 100.4(3)(b)(iv).
In response to the other specific questions in the inquiry, the judge should not participate in a “ride along” program with the local police department. Although the program is made available to all public officials and citizens, the judge’s participation would, none the less, violate the judge’s obligation to uphold the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. 22 NYCRR 100.1; 100.2(A).
The judge may serve on the county Domestic Violence Consortium which includes representatives from all components of the community. Opinion 99-111; 95-34 (Vol. XIII). The Committee specifically notes that the public defender has been invited to participate in the consortium but has declined, and that this consortium apparently does not perform any advocacy function in the courts. See, Joint Opinion 00-54-0-56; Opinions 100-92; 99-92. The judge may make a contribution to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Opinion 89-46 (Vol. III); 98-101 (Vol. XVII).