September 5, 1996
Digest: A judge may be a member of the League of Women Voters and accept a leadership position in the local chapter provided that such participation does not result in an involvement in partisan political activity.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4(C), 100.5(A)(1)(e); Opinion 91-155
An acting village justice asks whether it is permissible to participate as an active member of the village chapter of the League of Women Voters and accept a leadership position in the organization, if asked.
It is the Committee’s understanding that the League of Women Voters is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization that facilitates the dissemination to the electorate of views of candidates for elective office but does not itself take positions concerning political issues or candidates. Based upon that understanding, the Committee sees no ethical objection to the inquirer 's participation.
In Opinion 91-155, Vol. VIII, the Committee was asked whether a judge may introduce speakers who are candidates for a legislative office at a Women's Bar Association function. The candidates were to address women's issues. In giving its approval to the request in that instance the Committee stated that "[while section 100.7(e) [now section 100.5(A)(1)(e) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct] prohibits judges from engaging in partisan political activities, the judge may attend the meeting and introduce the candidates, as the Women’s Bar Association is not a political organization and the judge would not be taking a political position."
The Committee perceives no substantive difference between the two situations. If, however, the judge accepts a leadership position in the organization and such a position entangles the judge in disputes among candidates related to anticipated functions or other programs or events sponsored by the chapter, the judge should not participate. Further, should the organization engage in fund-raising, the judge is bound by the prohibitions and limitations set forth in section 100-4(C) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.