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Benchmarks: Journal of the New York State Unified Court System

Report from The Judicial Campaign Ethics Center

BY BONNIE BETH GREENBALL

The establishment of the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center (JCEC) was first recommended by the Commission to Promote Public Confidence in Judicial Elections (the Feerick Commission) in its December 2003 report. The purpose of the JCEC is to provide campaign-related ethics advice to judicial candidates. Bonnie Beth Greenball, the JCEC executive director, provides the following report on its first year of operation.

The JCEC had a busy first year. Nearly 200 callers have contacted our hotline (1-888-600- JCEC) seeking ethics advice, information about judicial campaigns and referrals to other agencies. We have handled over 100 ethics matters from judicial candidates inquiring about proposed campaign conduct. Many candidates have sought our advice on multiple matters, and we encourage candidates to contact us as frequently as the need arises. Almost half of our calls have come from “non-judge” candidates.

The JCEC has also talked to judges and candidates in Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany, White Plains and New York City about current issues in judicial campaigns and the services we offer. Training sessions on judicial campaign ethics were provided through the Town and Village Justices Continuing Judicial Education Program and by local trainers to almost all of the 1,900 justices, who run for office every four years.

The JCEC accepts written requests for advice from judicial candidates regarding their own conduct (by e-mail at contactJCEC@courts.state. ny.us, by fax at 212-401-9029, or by hard copy at 140 Grand Street, White Plains, NY 10601). Candidates receive an e-mail or faxed response (the average response time is two business days) as well as a hard copy signed by the Chair of the Judicial Campaign Ethics Subcommittee (five judges who are members of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics). Compliance with the written advice approved by the subcommittee confers the presumption of good conduct for the purposes of any subsequent investigation by the Commission on Judicial Conduct. That presumption applies only to the individual candidate for the duration of the campaign season. Although the commission does not have jurisdiction over non-judge candidates, once a candidate ascends to the bench, he or she can be removed for unethical conduct during the campaign, as can any incumbent judge. Therefore, it is always best for a candidate who is unsure whether proposed campaign activity may violate a provision of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct to seek advice from the JCEC. Visit our website, www.nycourts.gov/ip/jcec, to search all campaign-related ethics opinions of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics and review the Judicial Campaign Ethics Handbook.

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Web page updated: September 1, 2006 - www.NYCOURTS.gov