Opinion: 01-04

January 25, 2001

Digest:  It is an impermissible political activity for a candidate for judicial office to present awards to community groups or individuals, on behalf of and as the representative of public officials.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.0(Q)(8); 100.5(A)(1)(c);
           100.5(A)(2)(i); Opinion 98-16 (Vol. XVII).


            A recently appointed judge who is now seeking election to that office inquires whether it is permissible to make presentations on behalf of the local assemblyman, state senator, or other public official, "and give awards to local community groups and individuals such as eagle scouts, firefighters and nurses" on those occasions when the official may be unavailable to do so. Such presentations usually take place at an organization's fund-raiser or at a "group's regular meeting, or at a public building or event such as Town Hall or Town Board meetings."

            In our opinion the proposed activity is not a permissible political activity that a candidate for judicial office may engage in pursuant to section 100.5(A)(2) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. Nor is it a permissible extra-judicial activity, in that section 100.4(C)(3)(b)(ii) of the Rules prohibits a judge from being a speaker at an organization's fund-raising events. Opinion 98-16 (Vol. XVII). And the fact that the presentation is occurring during the Window Period (22 NYCRR 100.0[Q]) does not alter the proscription.

            But, even apart from those events which may be fund-raisers, the judge should not serve as a speaker on behalf of other political figures. The fact that section 100.5(A)(2)(i) allows a candidate to speak to gatherings on his or her own behalf does not carry with it any entitlement to appear as the representative of other officials. Assuming that role would constitute forbidden partisan political activity, even if the official is not him/herself presently a candidate for elective office. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(c).