January 29, 1998
A judge may not attend as a spectator a "Legislative Weekend," organized
by a caucus of legislators, where the activities thereat are legislative
22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(c),(g);
Joint Opinion 96-73/96-80 (Vol. XIV).
A judge presents the question as to the propriety of attending a four-day "Legislative Weekend of the New York State Black and Puerto Rican Legislative caucus" in Albany, New York. The judge would be a spectator, not a participant.
As stated by the judge, this is an annual event, with numerous activities, consisting of work shops and panels in which legislators and experts in different areas will be discussing several important legislative matters involving the group's agenda. As is clear from the materials provided by the inquirer, that agenda is political.
Thus, despite the reference to certain educational and cultural activities planned for the event, the main thrust of this meeting is political and supports the aim of developing the caucus into a "powerful" and "driving and unrelenting force in the New York State Legislature." This is evident from the "History" and "Mission Statement," of the caucus submitted by the judge.
Section 100.5 of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct prohibits political activity by judges. It expressly states in sub-paragraph (A)(1)(c) thereof that judges are prohibited from "engaging in any partisan political activity."
Further, judges are barred from "attending political gatherings." 22 NYCRR100.5(A)(1)(g).
Thus, there is no distinction between participating actively or attending
as a spectator. See Joint Opinion 96-73/96-80 (Vol. XIV). Accordingly,
the judge may not attend this event.