Opinion: 96-29

March 12, 1996




Digest:  (A) A part-time judge (1) must resign from positions held in a political party. (2) may practice law before the Zoning and Planning Board of other villages and towns but not before such boards of the village where the judge sits; (3) may not attend political dinners or functions except during the Window Period; (4) may not make contributions to a political candidate; (5) may not allow the judge's law firm to make such contributions; (B) It is inadvisable for the judge's spouse to make political contributions using a joint bank account. Any contributions must specify that it is the contribution of the spouse, and not that of the judge.
 

Rules:  22 NYCRR 100.5(A) (1) & (h);
            Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics,
            Vol. V, Opinion 90-59.
 
 

Opinion:

            A recently elected part-time judge asks the following questions:
 

1. I am presently a Democratic committee person and area chairman in the town of [deleted]. Must I resign from these positions, which obviously are political in nature?

2. May I practice law before the Zoning and Planning Boards of other Villages and Towns?

3. May I practice law before the Zoning and Planning Boards of the Village where I will be sitting as a Judge?

4. May I attend any political dinners or functions?

5. Am I allowed to make any contributions to any political candidate?

6. Can my wife on our joint checking account donate to a candidate?

7. Can my law firm on the firms check, not signed by me, donate to a candidate?


            The opinion of the Committee with respect to each of the above questions is as follows:

            1. The judge must resign from all such positions. Section 100.5(A)(1) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibits the holding of political office.

            2. Such practice is permissible.

            3. Such practice is impermissible. See Vol. V, Opinion 90-59.

            4. Attendance at such functions is permissible only during the Window Period applicable to the inquirer's campaign for judicial office.

            5. Such contributions are prohibited. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(h).

            6. The Committee considers it inadvisable for the judge's spouse to make contributions to political candidates using the couple's joint bank account. Any contribution by a spouse must specify that it is the spouse's contribution and not that of the judge.

            7. The judge's law firm's checking account should not be used to make political contributions even where the judge is not the signatory on the check. The judge cannot do indirectly that which is forbidden explicitly.