May 4, 2000
Digest: A judge should not attend a dinner sponsored by a political party's county committee which is honoring the judge's parent as "[name of political party] of the Year 2000."
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(g); Joint Opinion 96-73/80 (Vol. XIV).
A judge informs the Committee that the judge's parent is being featured and honored as "[name of political party] of the Year 2000" at a dinner sponsored by the party's county committee. The judge asks if it would be violative of judicial ethics if the judge: (1) attends the dinner and program, or (2) attends the dinner and remains for that part of the program honoring the judge's parent, or (3) was present only for the part of the program honoring the parent.
It is the Committee's opinion that the judge should not attend the event at all. Section 100.5(A)(1)(g) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct specifically prohibits a judge from "attending political gatherings." 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(g). The event in question is clearly a political gathering. Not only is it sponsored by a political party, it is explicitly honoring the judge's parent for his or her party involvement and the featured speaker is a high elected official of the same political party.
Notwithstanding the absence of any active participation in the event by the judge, it is a political gathering and therefore attendance in and of itself is prohibited. See e.g., Joint Opinion 96-73/80 (Vol. XIV) [a judge may not accompany his or her spouse to a dinner honoring the President, which is sponsored by the Democratic National Committee, nor may a judge attend as a spectator at the Republican National Convention to which his or her spouse is a delegate].