March 11, 1999
A county magistrates association should not arrange for and distribute
a group photograph of association members who are identified as incumbents
currently seeking reelection.
22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(e).
The following inquiry is made by an officer of a county magistrates association:
The officers of our County Magistrates Association are considering a group picture at one of our upcoming monthly magistrate association meetings. The proposed picture would include all those County Magistrates (with robes on) running for election this fall. Only names and jurisdictions will be identified on the picture. No funds will be expended to place the picture in any newspaper.
We consider this proposal as an effort to simply notify the public of the judicial incumbents that have served the community for the previous four years.
It is the Committee's opinion that the proposed group photograph of incumbent judges running for election, should not be taken or distributed under the auspices of the county magistrates association. While this may be considered by the association merely "as an effort to notify the public of the judicial incumbents that have served the community for the previous four years," it could readily be perceived as an endorsement by the association of those judges who are currently running for reelection. A judge is not permitted to publicly endorse any candidates for public office, including judicial office. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(e). Here, the association is not responding to any inquiry from the press or an interested citizen seeking information about candidates. Rather, it is affirmatively and gratuitously injecting itself into the electoral process in a way which seems to signify an institutional involvement in the various political races. In our view, the association should not arrange for or distribute such a photograph.