Opinion: 98-142
December 3, 1998
Digest:    A newly-elected Surrogate should not engage in any political activities in support of the candidacy of the Surrogate-elect's former aide in the special election to be held for the seat in the local legislature which the Surrogate-elect is vacating. This prohibition does not extend to members of the Surrogate-elect's family.

Rule:    22 NYCRR 100.0(Q); 100.5(A)(1);
            100.5(A)(1)(e); 100.5(A)(2);
            Opinions 87-24 (Vol. I); 94-60 (Vol. XII);
            95-22 (Vol. XIII).


            A newly-elected Surrogate, who has not yet assumed office, makes inquiry concerning the propriety of endorsing a particular candidate in the special election to be held to fill the vacancy in the political office now occupied by the Surrogate-elect (member of the local legislature). The candidate in question was employed by the Surrogate-elect as counsel and chief of staff. The Surrogate-elect also inquires whether this candidate may accompany the Surrogate-elect on the visits which the latter intends to make to various civic organizations and senior citizen centers in order to give thanks for the political support he/she has received. Finally, the inquirer asks whether members of the inquirer's family may endorse the candidate.

            Section 100.5(A)(1) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct states that "neither a sitting judge nor a candidate for public election to judicial office shall directly or indirectly engage in any political activity," subject to stated exceptions. Those exceptions relate primarily to the judge's ability to engage in political activities in connection with his or her own campaign for judicial office during the "Window Period" 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q); 100.5(A)(2). But endorsement of another candidate for elective public office is not a permissible political activity during the Window Period or otherwise 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(e). Thus, the Surrogate-elect may not endorse the former aide to succeed him/her to the seat in the local legislature. Opinion 87-24 (Vol. I). The inquirer may, however, during the Window Period, attend political functions and meetings of community groups where the candidate is present, provided of course, that nothing is said which would imply that the Surrogate-elect is endorsing the aide as the desired successor.

            As to the inquirer's family, there is no ethical rule which prohibits the spouse or children of the Surrogate-elect from endorsing and speaking on behalf of the candidate. See e.g. Opinions 95-22 (Vol. XIII); 94-60 (Vol. XII).