May 9, 1988
Topic: Political campaign contributions in the name of a law firm whose membership includes a partner or an associate who is also a part-time judge.
Digest: Members of a law firm may not contribute to a political campaign in the law firm name if a partner or associate is also a part-time local court judge.
Rules: 22 NYCRR §100.7; Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 7A(1)(c)
This opinion responds to an inquiry by a part-time local court judge, who also practices law, concerning the propriety of his/her law firm contributing money in its name while his/her name is listed as a firm member.
The Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts and the Code of Judicial Conduct [22 NYCRR 100.7 and CJC 7A(1)(c)] clearly and unequivocally prohibit all judges from donating money to political candidates. When a law firm, whose members include a part-time judge, donates money to a political campaign, it is correctly presumed that a percentage of the donation comes from the judge. If the judge is an associate or a partner of the firm, such donations give the clear appearance that the judge has endorsed the donee's candidacy. Such contributions, therefore, may not be made in the firm’s name.
Nothing contained herein precludes non-judge members of a firm from making donations, in their individual names, to a political campaign.
This opinion is advisory only and is not binding upon the Commission on Judicial Conduct or the Office of Court Administration.