September 12, 1989
Digest: A judge may sign a nominating petition to place names of individuals on an electoral ballot in any year, whether or not the judge is standing for election in that year, and may, if the Election Law permits, sign his or her own petition in a year when the judge is running for judicial office.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.7(c)
A judge asks the Committee whether, in a year that the judge is not running for office, the judge may sign a nominating petition to place on an electoral ballot the names of individuals who seek to run for various public offices. The judge further asks whether it is proper, in a year when the judge is running for judicial office, to sign the judge's own nominating petition or to sign the nominating petitions for other individuals.
The Committee is of the opinion that it is proper for a judge to sign a nominating petition to place on an electoral ballot the names of individuals seeking to be nominated for various public offices, because, in the Committee's view, this action is not within the intent of the prohibitions against political activity contained in 22 NYCRR 100.7. The signing of a nominating petition is a minuscule act in the overall election process, akin to the voting process rather than to the campaigning process. If the judge is a candidate there would be nothing unethical in the judge signing his or her own petition, provided however, that the Election Law does not prohibit a person's signing his or her own nominating petition, a matter of law that the Committee has not researched and which it does not address.
This opinion addresses the general ethical question to which it provides the general rule. Not addressed is whether there might be special circumstances that might make it inappropriate for a judge to sign a particular nominating petition. Also, it remains clear that a judge may not circulate nominating petitions for other candidates nor solicit persons to sign petitions, except with respect to the judge's own nomination.