February 24, 1989
Topic: Propriety of a Supreme Court Justice, who ran in an uncontested election, having a committee formed after the election to raise funds to reimburse the Justice for the Justice’s expenditures for costs incurred during the campaign.
Digest: An elected Justice of the Supreme Court who ran in an uncontested election may not have a committee formed after the election to raise funds to reimburse the Justice for costs incurred during the campaign, where the Justice has personally expended money to fully pay those costs.
Rule: 22 NYCRR §§1OO.5(c)(iii), 100.7
A Justice of the Supreme Court, who ran in an uncontested election, seeks an interpretation of section 100.7 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts. He inquires whether a committee may be formed after the election to recoup costs he incurred and paid personally during the campaign period.
Section 100.7 prohibits judges from engaging in political activities, but makes certain exceptions where the judge is a candidate for elective judicial office. Where a judge is a candidate for elective judicial office, the judge may allow a committee to be formed to raise funds to support the judge's candidacy. However, where no committee was formed prior to the judge's obtaining a nomination which leads to an uncontested election, and where all costs were paid in full by the judge's personal expenditures, one of the fundamental reasons for the exception to the rule prohibiting political activity, namely, the need for financial assistance in campaigning to secure the nomination or the election, no longer exists.
Furthermore, if after the uncontested election, a committee, on behalf of the elected Judge, could solicit funds to reimburse the judge for personal expenditures the judge chose to make to secure the nomination or election, this would perhaps be a violation of the spirit of Rule 100.5(c)(ii) forbidding gifts to judges from persons whose interests are likely to come before the judge, since many contributors probably would be lawyers.
This opinion does not address the situation where the judge has an outstanding campaign debt after the election. In this case there is no outstanding debt, since all pre-election costs were paid fully by the judge.