Joint Opinion 96-73 & 96-80
Digest: A judge may not (1) accompany his/her spouse to a dinner honoring the President, which dinner is sponsored by the Democratic National Committee (2) attend as a spectator the Republican National Convention to which his/her spouse is a delegate.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.5 (A)(1)(g)
Two judges raise a similar question concerning the propriety of accompanying a spouse to functions that are sponsored by a political party. In one instance, the inquirer asks whether he/she can accompany his/her spouse to a dinner honoring President Clinton, which dinner is sponsored by the Democratic National Committee. In the other instance, the inquirer informs the Committee that his/her spouse is a delegate to the Republican National Convention and asks whether attendance at the Convention as a spectator is permissible.
Section 100.5 (A) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct specifies the political activities that judges are prohibited from engaging in. Subparagraph (1) (g) of that section bars judges (who are not seeking election or reelection) from “attending political gatherings.”
Both the dinner sponsored by the Democratic National Committee and the Republican Party National Convention are obviously “political gatherings”, and the prohibition against attending such gatherings makes no distinction between participating actively in the event and accompanying one’s spouse to the event either as a dinner guest or as a spectator. Accordingly, it is the opinion of the Committee that the inquiring judges may not attend the events specified in their respective inquiries.