January 31, 2008
Digest: A judge who is not a candidate for elective judicial office may not attend a holiday party hosted by his/her friend who also is a member of Congress when the party is held at a commercial venue and is financed with the friend’s campaign funds.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q); 100.4(D)(5)(c); 100.5(A)(1) (c), (d), (g), (i); 100.5(A)(2). Opinion 06-147.
A judge who is not a candidate for elective judicial office asks whether he/she may attend an annual holiday party hosted by a close social and personal friend who also is a member of Congress. The judge explains that he/she has attended such parties in past years when they were held at the friend’s home and that the friend’s rule always has been that there be “no political activity” during the party. The judge advises that he/she has in fact never observed any political activity during prior parties.
This year the party will be held at a commercial venue and the judge believes that it will be financed with the friend’s campaign funds. The judge asks if he/she can attend the party under these circumstances. Alternatively, the judge asks if he/she can attend the party and reimburse the friend’s campaign for the cost of the meal.
Pursuant to the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, a judge may accept ordinary social hospitality (see 22 NYCRR 100.4[D][c]). A judge may not, however, attend political gatherings or purchase tickets to politically sponsored dinners or other functions, including any such function for a non-political purpose, except as otherwise permitted during the judge’s Window Period (see 22 NYCRR 100.0 [Q];100.5[A][g], [i]; 100.5[A]).
In Opinion 06-147, the Committee advised that the rules (22 NYCRR 100.5[A][c],[d] and [g]) prohibit a judge, who is not within his/her Window Period, from attending with his/her spouse who is an elected, non-judicial official, an out-of-state dinner hosted by a high-ranking congressional leader that is financed by the congressional leader’s campaign funds. For the same reason, the judge in the present inquiry who also is not within his/her Window Period is likewise precluded from attending an annual holiday party given by a friend who is a member of Congress when the party will be financed with the friend’s campaign funds. As the judge is precluded from attending a political gathering (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][g]), the suggestion that the judge would reimburse the friend’s campaign committee for the cost of the meal would not warrant a different result.