September 19, 1988
Topic: May a judge contribute money to an organization whose main purpose is to promote the principles of constitutional government in the United States, including the two-party political process, and the obligations of individual citizens in America’s self-government.
Digest: The judge may contribute to this non-profit, non-partisan organization provided that he monitors its use of funds and its teachings or philosophy.
Rule: 22 NYCRR §100.7
The requesting jurist asks whether he may contribute money to a non-profit organization which conducts seminars, attended by social studies teachers, to help the teachers better understand and enhance their knowledge of the United States Constitution and the two-party political process. The judge's concern is that the institute's goals may be interpreted as attempts to exclude third political parties, making his contribution in turn, a contribution to a political organization.
22 NYCRR §100.7 states: “No judge during a term of office shall hold any office in a political party or organization or contribute to any political party or political campaign or take part in any political campaign except his or her own campaign for elective judicial office....” (emphasis added).
From the information provided, it is difficult to conclude that the institute argues against the existence of third parties. Its motives, intentions and teachings seem to be purely educational. The judge may contribute money to the organization until such time as it appears that its aim is to discourage and exclude third political parties, thereby becoming a political organization.
This Opinion is advisory only and does not bind either the Office of Court Administration or the Commission on Judicial Conduct.