Opinion: 97-35

March 13, 1997

Digest:  A judge may attend and deliver a presentation on a non-controversial substantive legal topic, at a political organization's meeting held within the Window Period following the judge's election.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.0(Q), 100.3(B)(8),
           100.5(A)(2)(i), 100.5(A)(4)(d)(ii).


            A full-time judge asks if it is appropriate to address a meeting of a local political organization on a substantive legal topic. The judge has recently been elected to the judicial office and the presentation will take place after the election and within the six-months "Window Period" specified in the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct during which period the judge may speak at political gatherings "... on his or her own behalf..." 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q), 100.5(A)(2)(i).

            In the instant case, the discussion would be on the court system and interesting and unusual fact situations that have generated landmark negligence suits. The presentation will not address any controversial political or legal issues.

            Public comments by judges are limited by the Rules. Judges may make public statements in the course of their official duties and may explain the procedures of the court. Judges may not comment on any pending or impending proceeding in any court within the United States or its territories or make statements that commit or appear to commit the judge/candidate with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court. 22 NYCRR 100.3(B)(8); 100.5(A)(4)(d)(ii).

            Based upon the facts in this case, i.e., the presentation will take place after the election, but within the authorized period during which a judge is entitled to attend and speak at political functions, and the address will be on a non-controversial topic not involving any pending or impending cases, the Committee finds that it would not be improper for the judge to speak on this occasion before a political organization.