March 10, 1994
Please note: The Committee has more recently advised that a judge must disqualify himself/herself in any matter involving the law firm of the judge's campaign coordinator or campaign finance chair during the pendency of the campaign. See Opinions 13-64; 97-129.
Digest: A Surrogate Judge, running for re-election, may not preside over cases, during the campaign period, in which the attorney is the judge's campaign manager. Partners of the campaign manager may appear in the judge's court as long as the manager is not involved in the cases.
Rules: 22 NYCRR §§100.2(a), 100.3(c)(1)
A Surrogate Judge running for re-election asks whether the judge can preside over cases, during the campaign period, in which the attorney is the judge's campaign manager. The judge indicates that the matters to be handled by the attorney are routine, non-contested or administrative. The judge also inquires whether or not the partners of the manager may appear in such matters.
The Committee addressed this issue in Opinion 89-107, Vol. IV, wherein the judge was prohibited from presiding over cases handled by the judge's campaign manager.
The Committee is of the opinion that §100.3(c)(1) of the Rules of Judicial Conduct is applicable to the present situation. The Rule states that:
“A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which his or her impartiality might be reasonably questioned . . .”
The fact that the matters might be routine, non-contested or administrative does not change the relationship between the judge and campaign manager.
Furthermore, the judge must also avoid the appearance of impropriety as delineated in Rule 100.2(a), which states in part:
“A judge . . . shall conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”
Partners of the campaign manager may appear in the judge's court as long as the manager is not involved in the case.