Opinion: 99-18

January 28, 1999

Digest:  A judge may not attend or purchase a ticket to a fund-raiser on behalf of a candidate seeking election to a local school board.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1); 100.5(A)(1)(g) and (i).


            A judge inquires of the Committee, as follows:

A former intern is running for a seat on a local school board in [location]. He has invited me to attend what is termed a "Benefit Reception", honoring him as he announces his candidacy. I would not be attending as anyone's guest; I would expect to purchase a ticket as would any other individual.
My understanding of the process is that school board elections are not political (as in Democratic/Republican, etc.). Candidates, who may be registered voters or registered parents of school-age children, may file petitions and run without a party designation. The eight candidates with the highest vote totals win seats.

            It is the opinion of the Committee that the judge should not attend this event. Section 100.5(A)(1) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct forbids a judge (who is not a candidate for judicial office) from engaging in any political activity, "directly or indirectly." Prohibited political activity includes, among other things, "attending political gatherings" (22 NYCRR 100.5[A][1][g]), and "purchasing tickets for politically sponsored dinners or other functions . . ." 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(i). Both provisos are involved in the present matter.

            The fact that the election may not involve political parties does not make it any less political. Candidates are running against each other in a public election to public office. That makes it political. The judge, therefore, should not attend the event nor should the judge purchase a ticket.