December 14, 2016
PERSONAL & CONFIDENTIAL
Dear Justice :
This responds to your inquiry (16-149) asking whether a judge may attend a free, non-partisan “meet the candidates” event, organized by a non-political community residents’ association, where all candidates for a particular office (i.e., both parties) will attend, speak and answer questions.
It is ethically permissible for a judge to attend a non-partisan candidate forum, subject to generally applicable limitations on judicial speech and conduct, including the public comment rule (see 22 NYCRR 100.3[B] [judge shall not make any public comment about a pending or impending proceeding]). Therefore, it is permissible to ask questions that do not give the impression that a judge is endorsing a particular candidate. Moreover, in attending the event, the judge must ensure that his/her conduct promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary (see 22 NYCRR 100.2[A]) and does not create the impression that the judge endorses or opposes a particular candidate or otherwise seeks to advance the interest of a political party or candidate (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A]).
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 08-05; 97-29 and 90-177 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Div., First Dep’t (Ret.)
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Family Court Judge
Acting Justice, Supreme Court