March 9, 2006
Digest: Members of a judge’s association may support the enactment of a bill pending in the legislature, which support may include lobbying and sending of a letter, where the proposed legislation concerns the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(1); Opinions 02-10; 98-05 (Vol. XVI); 93-78 (Vol. XI).
A judge who serves on an Association of Women’s Judges, Women in Prison Committee inquires whether it is permissible for members to lend their support to a bill before the legislature that would benefit incarcerated domestic violence survivors who have been convicted of crimes against their abusers. Such support by the judges would include signing a letter urging the legislature to pass such a bill as well as lobbying the legislature in support of its enactment.
Pursuant to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, full-time judges are permitted to appear before a legislative body on matters concerning the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(1). Thus, in prior opinions, this Committee has found it appropriate for a judge to write to a legislature or to lobby in favor of legislation so long as it concerns the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. Opinions 02-10; 98-05 (Vol. XVI). Accordingly, it is not inappropriate for a judge’s association to engage in activities which express the group’s position on particular matters where the issues involved fall within the contemplation of Rule 100.4(C)(1). Opinion 93-78 (Vol. XI). In our opinion the proposed legislation involves such issues and, therefore, the judges may engage in the proposed activity.