December 11, 2018
Digest: A judicial candidate who is part of a political party’s slate may attend a fund-raising event where the invitation says “come meet [this year’s] candidates, including our judicial slate,” without naming him/her.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q); 100.5(A)(1)(c)-(d), (h); 100.5(A)(2); 100.(A)(2)(iii), (v); 100.6(A); Opinions 12-84/12-95(B)-(G); 01-99; 01-27; 94-15; 91-02.
A candidate for elective judicial office asks if he/she may attend a political party’s pre-election fund-raising dinner during the applicable window period. Tickets are $250. The invitation reads: “Come meet [this year’s] candidates, including our judicial slate.” The candidate is a member of the party’s judicial slate, and is thus generally referenced on the invitation. However, the candidate is not individually referenced or highlighted and his/her name does not appear on the invitation, announcements, or advertising for the event.
Judge and non-judge candidates for elective judicial office may engage in limited political activity in support of their own campaigns during their window periods (see 22 NYCRR 100.0[Q]; 100.5[A]; 100.6[A]). For example, they may attend a wide variety of political events, including fund-raisers sponsored by political organizations, subject to limitations on the price and number of tickets (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][v]). They may appear at such gatherings with other candidates on their slate (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][iii]; Opinion 01-99), but may not solicit funds for any political organization (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][h]), permit their name to be used in connection with any activity of a political organization (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][d]), or engage in any partisan political activity other than their own judicial campaign (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][c]).
In Opinion 01-27, we said a judicial candidate must not be a guest of honor and award recipient at a political party’s annual fund-raising dinner. We explained that if he/she accepted an award or were a guest of honor at the event, the candidate “would be permitting his or her name to be used in connection with the fund-raising activity of a political organization” (id.). In reaching this conclusion, we emphasized the candidate “is not simply appearing at a political event as part of a slate of candidates” (id.).
Subsequently, in Opinion 12-84/12-95(B)-(G), we concluded a judicial candidate may be a speaker, guest of honor, or award recipient at a political fund-raiser if “the candidate’s participation is unannounced prior to the event.” As we explained (id. [citations and footnote omitted]):
[T]he inquirer’s participation as a speaker will not be announced in advance of the political fund-raising event. In the Committee’s view, this distinction warrants a different result from the Committee’s prior opinions cited above. If a judicial candidate’s participation as a speaker or award recipient is not announced prior to a political fund-raising event, the candidate’s name and participation is not being used to draw attendees to the event. Thus, there is little, if any risk that the public will conclude that the candidate is permitting his/her name to be used in, or is otherwise implicated in, the fund-raising efforts. In serving as an unannounced speaker at a political fund-raiser during his/her window period, a judicial candidate may speak on behalf of his/her own campaign but must not endorse or oppose (other than by running against) another candidate for public office and must not personally solicit funds.
In a footnote, we observed “a different analysis may apply if the judicial candidate is invited to a political party’s fund-raiser as part of the party’s entire local slate” (id. fn 4 [comparing Opinion 91-02 with Opinion 94-15]). Of particular note, in Opinion 94-15, we said that recently elected judges may attend a political fund-raising dinner in the post-election window period, where they “are only part of a general group of judicial and non-judicial honorees and cannot be deemed to be doing the soliciting.”
Here, as in Opinion 12-84/12-95(B)-(G), the judicial candidate’s name will not be used in connection with the political party’s fund-raising event. Indeed, he/she is not being individually singled out in the invitation; rather, the party states that its entire local slate, including all its judicial candidates, will be present. Where, as here, the judicial candidates’ names are not being used to advertise or promote the event, we believe the party’s invitation to “come meet [this year’s] candidates, including our judicial slate” does not create any reasonable appearance that the candidates are directly or indirectly helping raise funds for the political party by, for example, lending their names to the party’s fund-raising efforts (cf. 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][d], [h]). Thus, this judicial candidate’s presence at the fund-raiser will be interpreted, correctly, as an opportunity for the candidate to promote his/her own candidacy by appearing with other members of his/her slate at an event (cf. 22 NYCRR 100.5[A]; 100.5[A][iii]).
Accordingly, we conclude the judicial candidate need not object to the invitation. Since the tickets are $250, the candidate may purchase and use two tickets to attend the event (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][v]).