June 13, 1991
Please Note: This Opinion has been modified by Opinion 01-32, which states: "[T]he Committee does not believe that a court attorney becomes a personal appointee of a judge merely by the fact of performing services at a particular point in time for one judge alone; and to the extent that Opinion 91-77 (Vol. VII) might be read to say otherwise, we herewith modify that opinion to reflect the views expressed herein."
Digest: A court attorney working with a full-time judge may participate in the political campaign of a spouse.
Rule: 22 NYCRR §100.3(b)(5)
A full-time judge inquires whether a court attorney whose spouse is campaigning for a council seat, may serve as treasurer; attend fundraising dinners; attend speaking engagements at public community functions; attend campaign strategy meetings; public rallies; and assist in political and fundraising mailings.
Section 100.3(b)(5) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator provides that "a judge shall prohibit members of his or her staff who are the judge's personal appointees from engaging in the following political activity: (i) holding an elective office in a political party, or a club or organization related to a political party." Thus, serving as treasurer of a spouse's political campaign is prohibited.
Nothing in Section 100.3(b)(5), however, prohibits a court attorney from attending fundraising dinners for the spouse, attending speaking engagements, campaign rallies or campaign meetings in or out of the candidate's home, or assisting in political or fundraising mailings, provided that the solicitations are not made by the court attorney in his or her name.
The Committee construes this question as being whether the judge should forbid these activities in cases in which the judge has the power to do so, assuming that the court attorney is in a law assistant or law secretary relationship to the judge or is analogous to a personal appointee.