Opinion: 97-29

March 13, 1997

Digest:  A part-time judge who is general counsel and secretary of the County Chamber of Commerce may attend a forum for prospective candidates for the office of County Executive which is sponsored by the County Chamber of Commerce, but may not attend a reception for state legislators and their staffs.

Rules:  22 NYCRR 100.5; 100.5 (A)(1)(c)
             Opinions: 94-02 (Vol. XII), 90-177 (Vol. VI).


            A part-time Town Justice who is general counsel and secretary to the County Chamber of Commerce inquires whether the judge may attend a forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and two local realtor organizations for aspiring candidates for County Executive.

            Since the forum is not sponsored by a political organization and all of the announced prospective candidates will be invited to participate, regardless of political affiliation, there is no proscription against the judge attending the forum.

            In the opinion of the Committee, attendance at the forum would not constitute impermissible political activity under section 100.5 of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. See, also Opinion 90-177 (Vol. VI).

            However, the judge should not attend a reception for state legislators and their staffs. Although the announcement of the reception sponsored by the Chamber's Public Affairs Council, states that "we will not be pressing the legislators on any specific issues at the function" it is noted that the event will provide the "opportunity for one-on-one discussion with the legislators and their key staff on matters impacting your business and [the county's] economy." In the Committee's opinion, notwithstanding the disclaimer, such activity could well give the impression of an involvement in partisan political activity, and therefore should be avoided. 22 NYCRR100.5(A)(1)(c); Opinion 94-02 (Vol. XII).