June 6, 2008
Digest: It is impermissible for a judicial candidate, who previously received a prestigious court-related award, to use quotations from the award nomination letters in his/her judicial campaign, unless (1) the candidate determines that the letter writer is not currently a sitting judge or other person subject to Section 100.5 and (2) the candidate includes sufficient information or context for the quotations to avoid misleading the public.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.2; 100.2(A); 100.5; 100.5(A)(1); 100.5(A)(1)(c); 100.5(A)(1)(e); 100.5(A)(2)(ii); 100.6(A); Opinion 07-72 (Vol. XV).
A judicial candidate who received a prestigious award asks whether he/she may use quotations from letters written in support of his/her nomination for the award in his/her judicial campaign. Most of the letter writers are associated with the Unified Court System.
A judge must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all the judge’s activities (see 22 NYCRR 100.2) and must act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]). A judge may participate in his/her own campaign for judicial office (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][[c]) and may distribute pamphlets and other promotional campaign literature supporting his/her candidacy (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][ii]).
The inquiring judge should not use quotations from letters written by judges or quasi-judicial officials of the Unified Court System because §100.5 of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct (Rules) prohibits sitting judges, quasi-judicial officials and candidates for judicial office from engaging directly or indirectly in any political activity unless authorized by law or the Rules (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A]; 100.6[A]). In particular, they may not publicly endorse another candidate for public office (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][e]). Were the inquiring judge to use quotations by anyone subject to Part 100.5 in campaign materials, it would imply that the person quoted was endorsing the judge’s election.
While it is ethically permissible for the inquiring judge to use quotations from letters by those who are not subject to §100.5, he/she must ensure that doing so does not mislead the public (see Opinion 97-72 [Vol. XV]). Therefore, under the circumstances presented, the candidate should clearly indicate the date and the original purpose for each quotation, and any other information required to ensure that each quotation is presented accurately (id.).