Opinion 89-48

May 25, 1989


Topic:          Attendance of non-candidate judge at political, civic and social affairs, escorting spouse who is candidate for office.


Digest:         A judge may not contribute to or participate in a spouse's political campaign, and may not, in a year when the judge is not a candidate for office, escort a candidate spouse to politically-sponsored events, but may escort spouse to civic or social events during spouse's candidacy, so long as the judge personally refrains from campaigning for spouse at such events.


Rules:          22 NYCRR 100.7, 100.7(a), 100.7(c)


         A judge who is not a candidate for office inquires whether he may escort his spouse, who expects to become a candidate for a local legislative office, to all political, civic and social affairs she may wish to attend during the period of her candidacy. The judge points out that many of these affairs will be held in the evenings, when the spouse will particularly wish to be escorted for purposes of protection as well as for social purposes.

         The Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts do not permit a judge to participate in any political campaign except his or her own, when he or she is a candidate (22NYCRR section 100.7). The political activity prohibited includes the purchase, directly or indirectly, of tickets to politically-sponsored dinners or other affairs, as well as attendance at such affairs. (22 NYCRR 100.7[a]). Thus, a judge who is not a candidate may not escort a candidate spouse to any politically-sponsored affair during the spouse's candidacy. This construction accords with the determination of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in Matter of Edward A. Rath. Jr., where the judge was admonished for escorting his spouse to four campaign fund-raising events.

         However, in this inquiry the judge also seeks to know whether, during his spouse's candidacy, he may escort his spouse to ordinary civic and social events, not politically-sponsored, but which the spouse may choose to attend to enhance her candidacy.

The Committee distinguishes between politically-sponsored affairs, that is, any affairs, that the public fairly would perceive as political in nature, and non-politically-sponsored civic, social, religious, conmmity, cultural or recreational affairs.

         A non-candidate judge may never escort the candidate spouse to a politically-sponsored affair.

         However, the Committee is of the opinion that a judge need not refrain from escorting a candidate spouse to affairs that are essentially civic, social, religious, community, cultural or recreational affairs and are not politically-sponsored, although the spouse's attendance at such affairs during the campaign may be designed by the spouse to enhance the spouse's candidacy, and although the spouse may engage in some personal campaigning during the course of such affairs. But, at such affairs, as at all times, the judge personally should refrain from any campaigning.

         Were the Committee to advise otherwise, a judge would not be permitted to accompany his or her spouse to the non-politically- sponsored civic, community, religious, cultural, social or recreational affairs they normally attend together, solely because the spouse had become a candidate for office and because during a campaign almost every public appearance by a candidate at any type of affair, however non-political, may invoke some political discussion or conversation and some personal campaigning by the spouse. The Rules do not require that degree of public disassociation by a judge from a candidate spouse during the sometimes lengthy period of a political campaign.