September 22, 1994
Digest: (a) A town justice campaigning for re-election may participate in a public debate with other candidates; (b) a town justice may also serve as a notary public; (c) a town justice may also serve as an officer of a not-for-profit organization, but cannot participate in the solicitation of funds or permit the use of his or her name for fund-raising purposes.
Rules: Canon 7(B)(1) and (3); 22 NYCRR 100.3(a) 6; 100.2(a) and (c); 100.5(b)
A recently appointed town justice inquires whether the justice can participate in a debate with another candidate for the same office, and, if so, what restrictions would apply in responding to questions posed in the course of the debate. Inquiry is also made as to whether the judge can continue to act as a notary public and serve as president of the Women's Association of a local hospital.
An incumbent judge who is running for re-election may attend and participate in functions organized by political or other civic groups. This would include participation in a debate. But in response to questions presented at such debate, an incumbent must adhere to Canon 7B (1) and (3) which require that the candidate "maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office" and refrain from making "pledges or promises of conduct in office other than the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of the office". Additionally, Rule 100.3(a)(6) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator prohibits a judge from publicly commenting upon pending or impending matters in any court.
Rule 100.5(h) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator states that a "part-time judge may accept private employment or public employment provided such employment is not incompatible with judicial office and does not conflict with or interfere with the proper performance of the judge's duties". Thus, there is no ethical objection to a part-time judge continuing to act as a Notary Public.
Finally, Rule 100.5(b) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator provides that a "judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or nonlegal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization, not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members, subject to the ... limitations: ... (2) No judge shall solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of the office for that purpose, but may be listed as an officer, director or trustee of such an organization, provided, however, that no such listing shall be used in connection with any solicitation of funds". (See Opinions 91-23, 91-33, Vol. VII).