June 10, 1993
NOTE: MODIFIED BY OPINION 06-162
Digest: A judge may use unexpended campaign funds to purchase office equipment, which becomes the property of the State court system.
Rules: Election Law §14-130; Canon 7(B)(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
A newly-elected judge asks whether the judge’s campaign committee may use unexpended campaign funds to purchase a table and six chairs for the court chambers and a suitable chair for the courtroom bench.
In Opinions 92-104 (Vol. X), and 91-87 (Vol. VIII), of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, the Committee founds that unexpended campaign funds could be used to purchase office equipment that is solely related to the holding of public office, and that does not constitute a private benefit to the judge.
In Opinion 91-87, the Committee founds it permissible for the judge’s campaign committee to “use unexpended campaign contributions to update word processing and computer equipment in the court and purchase microphones solely for use in the judge’s courtroom.” In Opinion 92-104, the Committee found it permissible for the judge’s campaign committee to purchase a facsimile machine, a dictating and transcribing machine, a telephone answering machine, and service contracts for the photocopier and computer systems, for use in the judge’s chambers.
Canon 7(B)(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct states that a judicial candidate “should not use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of himself...” Section 14-130 of the Election Law provides that “such funds shall not be converted by any person to a personal use which is unrelated to the holding of public office or party position.” By implication, these provisions permit the use of unexpended campaign funds if the expenditure is related to the holding of public office, and there is no appearance of personal or private benefit to the judge.
It is understood that the equipment, upon purchase, becomes the property of the State court system, even though installed in the chambers of the particular judge.