Joint Opinion 07-150 and 07-151
September 6, 2007
Digest: A candidate for elective judicial office may inform the public that an Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commission has found the candidate qualified for the judicial position he/she seeks and may publish an exact copy of the Commission’s press release about such finding.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(e); 100.5(A)(2)(i) - (iv); 100.5(A)(4)(a); 100.5(A)(4)(d)(ii),(iii); Opinion 05-99.
Two candidates for judicial office have been interviewed and found “Qualified” by their respective Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commissions (Commission) for election. The candidates ask if they may publicize this rating in their respective campaign literature, advertisements, and verbal statements. One candidate also asks if he/she can distribute an exact copy of the Commission’s press release, or reproduce it in campaign materials.
Pursuant to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, a candidate for judicial office (i) may attend and speak to gatherings on his or her own behalf; (ii) may appear in newspaper, television and other media advertisements supporting his or her candidacy, and distribute pamphlets and other promotional campaign literature supporting his or her candidacy; (iii) may appear at gatherings, and in newspaper, television and other media advertisements with the candidates who make up the slate of which the candidate is a part; and, (iv) may permit the candidate’s name to be listed on election materials along with the names of other candidates for elective public office. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(2)(i) - (iv). In conducting his/her campaign, a judicial candidate must maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office and act in a manner consistent with the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(4)(a). In addition, a candidate shall not knowingly make any false statement or misrepresent the identity, qualifications, current position or other fact concerning the candidate or an opponent. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(4)(d)(iii).
Therefore, the candidates may inform the public truthfully, and without distortion, about matters of public record regarding themselves, including that their respective Commissions found them qualified for the judicial positions they seek. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(4)(d)(ii). In referring to their ratings, the candidates should be guided by the “Statement of Ethical Guidelines for use of Commission’s Rating,” available online at http://www.nycourts.gov/ip/jcec/Part150-EthicalGuidelines.pdf.
The inquiring candidates also may issue campaign literature, including press releases, accurately stating facts about their candidacies (22 NYCRR 100.5[A][ii]), including issuing such press releases jointly with other candidates for judicial office, provided that nothing contained therein indicates that as a judicial candidate, he/she endorses another’s candidacy. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(e); Opinion 05-99. The candidates, therefore, also may reproduce and distribute an exact copy of the Commission’s press release.