September 4, 2014
Digest: The mere fact that a newly formed political party will be limited to the single issue suggested in the party’s name does not, without more, preclude a judicial candidate’s acceptance of the party’s endorsement or nomination.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(4)(a); 100.5(A)(4)(d)(i)-(ii); 100.6(A); Opinions 13-126; 01-44; 00-86 (Vol. XIX); 93-64 (Vol. XI); 93-52 (Vol. XI); 93-25 (Vol. XI); Joint Opinion 91-27/91-49 (Vol. VII).
A candidate for elective judicial office asks if he/she may accept endorsement and/or nomination by a newly formed statewide political party named “Stop Common Core,” which was organized around the sole platform of objecting to a particular nationwide educational initiative.1 The candidate states that the party has no other platform beyond that described in the name, and the candidate “do[es] not anticipate any issues addressing Common Core to be entertained” in the court to which the candidate aspires.
A judge or non-judge seeking election to judicial office is subject to applicable provisions of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct throughout the course of his/her campaign (see 22 NYCRR 100.6[A]). For example, a judicial candidate must act in a manner consistent with the dignity, impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][a]). A judicial candidate also must not make pledges or promises of conduct in office that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][d][I]), and must not make improper commitments with respect to cases, controversies likely to come before the court (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][d][ii]).
The Committee has previously advised that the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct do not prohibit a judicial candidate from personally soliciting and accepting non-financial support, including endorsements from political parties (see Opinions 13-126; 01-44). Moreover, the Committee has recognized that accepting a party’s nomination “does not necessarily require acceptance of that party’s goals, positions, or platform” (Opinion 00-86 [Vol. XIX]). Indeed, in Opinion 93-52 (Vol. XI), the Committee advised:
a judicial candidate’s mere acceptance of the endorsement of a political party, whether multi-issue or single-issue, in and of itself, does not constitute an endorsement by the candidate of the party’s position on an issue, nor does it constitute an announcement of the candidate’s position on the party’s platform or political philosophy, either specifically or generally. For example, it is not inconsistent in precedent or custom for a judicial candidate to accept simultaneously the endorsements of the Democratic, Republican, Liberal and Conservative parties, even where the party platforms are in conflict. A candidate who accepts the endorsement of a party that limits its platform to one issue, such as the Right to Life party, does not necessarily imply agreement with the position of that party. Thus, as long as the party is on the ballot in accordance with the Election Law, the candidate may accept its endorsement if all the procedures and requirements of the Election Law are met.
The Committee further notes that the “Stop Common Core” party’s name and platform, as described in the present inquiry, do not appear to be deceptive or otherwise inherently inconsistent with the dignity, impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][a]). It also appears from the present inquiry that the “Stop Common Core” party has not attempted to impose any unacceptable “conditions” to its endorsement or nomination, such as a request that the inquiring judicial candidate decline cross-endorsement by other parties (see, e.g., Opinions 00-86 [Vol. XIX]; 93-64 [Vol. XI]; 93-25 [Vol. XI]; Joint Opinion 91-27/91-49 [Vol. VII]). Accordingly, the Committee concludes that the mere fact that the “Stop Common Core” party will be limited to the single issue suggested in the party’s name does not preclude a judicial candidate’s acceptance of the party’s endorsement or nomination (see Opinion 93-52 [Vol. XI]).
The inquiring judicial candidate may therefore, if he/she chooses, accept the nomination or endorsement of the “Stop Common Core” party.
1 The Common Core State Standards Initiative (http://www.corestandards.org/) has “provoked an uncommonly spirited debate around the country” about children’s education (CBS News, “The debate over Common Core” [9/21/2014]).