Joint Opinion 89-116 and 89-121
October 24, 1989
Digest: A judge may be a member of a board of directors of a bar association which urges defeat of a judicial candidate in advertisements and press releases, provided that the judge does not participate in rating the candidate and that the judge requests that the bar association make it clear that the judge did not participate in the evaluation of the candidate.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4 ( c) and 100.7 (e).
Several judges belong to a bar association, and one judge is a member of its board of directors, which has issued press releases and placed advertisements stating that it has rated a candidate running for judicial office as not qualified. The judges inquire whether that action constitutes a prohibited political activity which would require their resignation from the bar association or the board of directors.
In Opinion 88-100, this Committee permitted judges to serve as members and officers of bar associations which rate judicial candidates, provided that the judges not participate in the rating process, and that the bar associations affirmatively state in all matters dealing with judicial candidate evaluations that judicial members of the bar associations did not participate in the rating process in any way. See 22 NYCRR 100.4 ( c) and 100.7 (e).
Here, the judges need not resign from the bar association or its board of directors as a result of the advertising campaign, but, in view of the ethical limitations on the political activities of judges, they should not participate in such evaluations, and they should request the bar association to state on all future press releases and advertisements that judicial members of the organization had no involvement with the rating of judicial candidates.