Opinion 87-12(a) (b)

 

Topic:          (a) Attendance by judge at a holiday-type party of a law firm or legal agency; (b) attendance by judge at an anniversary celebration of a legal services agency at which the honored guests are elected public officials who are or may be candidates for reelection.

 

Digest:         (a) A judge may attend an ordinary holiday-type party given by a law firm or legal agency; (b) a judge may attend an anniversary celebration of a legal services agency at which the honored guests are public officials who are or may be candidates for reelection, provided the event cannot fairly be perceived as designed to advance the candidacy of the officials, the judge does not sit on the dais, and he or she uses discretion to avoid actions that might fairly be perceived as intended to advance the candidacy of the officials.

 

Rules:          100.5(c)(3); 100.7(c)


Opinion:


         (a) Rule 100.5(c)(3)(I)(ii)(iii) of the Chief Administrator’s Judicial Conduct Rules (22 NYCRR 100.5(c)(3)(I)(ii)(iii)) governs the acceptance of gifts by judges. These provisions permit the acceptance by a judge of “ordinary social hospitality.” If a law firm or legal agency invites a judge to attend an ordinary holiday party, or similar function, the judge may attend. The emphasis is on the word “ordinary”; this would not include, for example, a party that provides guests with a complete dinner at an expensive restaurant, a cruise, or a like affair that is out of the ordinary in expense or lavishness. (This situation is to be distinguished from a judge attending a bar association function as a guest of the bar association, which is permissible, even if the affair is expensive).


         (b) Rule 100.7(c) of the Chief Administrator’s Rules provides that participation by a judge, either directly or indirectly, in any political campaign for any office, except his own or her own campaign for elective judicial office, is prohibited. The Advisory Committee is of the opinion that attendance as a guest by a judge at an anniversary party or other affair of an organization that is not a partisan political organization, where elected officials who are or who may be candidates for reelection are being honored, is permissible, provided that the affair cannot fairly be perceived as designed or arranged to advance the candidacies of the officials However, a judge who attends such an affair should not sit on the dais, if there is one, and should exercise discretion to avoid actions that fairly might be perceived as intended to advance the candidacies of the officials.


         This opinion is advisory only and does not bind either the Office of Court Administration or the Commission on Judicial Conduct.