October 18, 2007
Digest: (1) A part-time judge whose law firm is the primary lessee of space in an office building should ask his/her landlord to remove signs endorsing political candidates from the leased property. (2) During his/her window period, it is permissible for a part-time judge to display campaign signs supporting his/her own candidacy, including signs that also list other candidates for public office who make up the slate of which the judge is a part, but must ensure that he/she does not publicly endorse any other candidate.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(d),(e); 100.5(A)(2)(ii),(iii), (iv); Opinions 05-99; 01-99 (Vol. XX); 99-118 (Vol. XVIII); 96-112 (Vol. XIV); 98-99 (Vol. XVII).
A part-time judge’s law firm occupies leased office space in a building with one other tenant. The firm name is displayed on a large, detached sign near a public road and the judge’s name is displayed on a large sign attached to the building.
The judge indicates that several political candidates placed campaign signs on the building property near the large, detached firm sign. The judge contacted the landlord and asked that the signs be removed to dispel any implication that the judge endorses candidates whose signs were posted on the property, and the landlord complied.
A judge who is a tenant or lessee may have no authority to prevent political candidates from placing signs on rental property. Nevertheless, a judge should make every reasonable attempt to prevent political candidates from doing so (see Opinion 99-118 [Vol. XVIII]; 96-112 [Vol. XIV]). The judge in the present inquiry, therefore, acted appropriately in asking the landlord to remove the offending signs.
As the inquiring judge soon will be a candidate for re-election to judicial office, he/she asks if it is permissible to post political signs on the property during his/her window period, including signs supporting the judge’s own candidacy.
Pursuant to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, a judge cannot participate in any political campaign for any office, and may not publicly endorse or publicly oppose (other than by running against) another candidate for public office (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][d], [e]). During his/her window period, however, a judge may participate in the judge’s own campaign for judicial office, including appearing in promotional campaign literature supporting his/her own candidacy, in media advertisements with the candidates who make up the slate of which the judge is a part, and permit his/her name to be listed on election materials along with the names of other candidates for elective public office (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][ii], [iii], [iv]; Opinion 01-99 [Vol. XX]; 98-99 [Vol. XVII]).
During the inquiring judge’s window period, therefore, he/she may display campaign signs supporting his/her own candidacy, including signs that list other candidates for public office who make up the slate of which the judge is a part (see Opinion 05-99). The judge must ensure, however, that he/she does not publicly endorse any other candidate (id).