2020 Edition Judicial Campaign Ethics Handbook

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J UDICIAL CAMPAIGN ETHICS H ANDBOOKof the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics(2022 Edition)FOREWORD . iiCONTACT INFORMATION . ivJUDICIAL CAMPAIGN ETHICS HANDBOOK . 11.Basic Rule: No Partisan Political Activity. 12.Becoming a Candidate. 12.1 . Pre-Candidacy Activities. 22.1.1 . Testing the Waters. 22.1.2 .Anticipated Vacancies vs Known Judicial Vacancies. 22.2 .Candidacy and Window Period Defined. 32.2.1 . Definition of “Candidate”; Announcement of Candidacy. 32.2.2 . “Window Period” Defined. 42.2.3 . Candidates Who Are Unopposed. 62.2.4 . Repeat Candidates; Candidates Who Are Running Two Years in a Row. 62.2.5 . Candidates Who Currently Hold Non-Judicial Public Office. 62.2.6 . Candidates for Town or Village Justice Positions. 72.2.7 .Judge as Candidate for Non-Judicial Office. 72.3 . Mandatory Education Program. 72.4 . Mandatory Financial Disclosure. 83. Limits on Permissible Political Activity. 8

3.1 . Membership in Political Parties; Voting; Signing Nominating Petitions. 93.2 .Membership in Political Clubs or Organizations. 93.3 . Endorsement by Political Organizations and Other Persons and Entities. 103.3.1 . Questionnaires. 123.3.2 . Screening Panels. 133.3.3 . Limited Endorsement of Judicial Convention Delegate by Supreme CourtCandidate in Furtherance of His/Her Own Candidacy . 143.4 .Nominating and Designating Petitions. 163.5 . Attendance at Political Gatherings. 173.6 . Attendance at Charitable Gatherings or Events. 204. . Fund-Raising and Use of Campaign Funds During the Campaign. 214.1 . Campaign Committees. 214.1.1 . Specific Fund-Raising Strategies and Techniques. 244.2 . Joint Fund-Raising. 254.3 . Proper Utilization of Campaign Funds. 264.3.1 . Special Considerations - Payments to Political Committees and Others. 274.3.2 . Post-Election Window Period. 284.4 . Special Considerations - Candidate Who Anticipates Running for Two Positions inthe Same Election Cycle . 295. Communications with Voters. 295.1 .Form of Advertisements. 295.2 . Use of Judicial Title, Robes, and Courthouse. 325.3 . Content of Campaign Speech. 34

5.3.1 . Truthfulness. 345.3.2 . Pledges and Promises. 355.3.3 . Public Endorsement or Opposition. 365.3.4 .Additional Issues and Topics. 365.4 . Judicial Decisions Affecting Campaign Activities and Comments. 395.4.1 . “Announce Clause” Restrictions Struck Down. 395.4.2 . “Pledge and Promise” Restrictions Remain in Effect. 405.5 . Joint Campaigning. 405.6 . Debates. 426. Involvement of Friends, Family, and Colleagues in Judicial Campaigns. 426.1 . Judge’s Staff Participating in the Judge’s Campaign. 426.2 . Participation of a Judicial Candidate’s Family. 447. Post-Election Fund-Raising and Use of Campaign Funds. 457.1 . Unexpended or Surplus Campaign Funds. 457.1.1 . Permissible Uses and Closing of the Campaign Account. 457.1.2 . Prohibited Uses. 487.1.3 . Candidate Running for the Same Position Two Years in a Row. 497.2 . Post-Election Fund-Raising. 497.3 . Other Post-Election Conduct. 51

8. Campaign-Related Disqualifications. 518.1 . Campaign Contributions – Legal and Administrative Considerations. 528.2 . Pledge or Promise. 538.3 . Endorsements. 548.4 . During the Campaign. 548.5 . After the Campaign: The Two-Year Rule. 559. Additional Reminders for Sitting Judges. 57TABLE OF AUTHORITIES . 59SUBJECT MATTER INDEX . 63

ACKNOWLEDGMENTSSpecial thanks are due to the Judicial Campaign Handbook subcommittee for the initialdraft of the Handbook in 2003: Hon. Edward P. Borrelli, Hon. Lawrence J. Bracken, Hon.Jerome C. Gorski, and Maryrita Dobiel, Esq.The 2022 Edition of the Handbook was prepared by a subcommittee appointed by Hon.Margaret T. Walsh and Hon. Lillian Wan, consisting of Rosemary Garland-Scott, Esq., Hon.Edward P. Borrelli, Josefina Lessey, Sherice Goodwine, and Laura L. Smith, Esq. The 2022Edition includes opinions issued as of October 22, 2021.i

FOREWORDAlthough many judges and justices of the New York State Unified Court System arechosen through a partisan electoral process, they are prohibited from engaging in politicalactivities, except as authorized by the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct (22 NYCRR Part 100) orother provisions of law. While the Rules prescribe the parameters of ethically permissiblepolitical activities, applying those rules in specific situations can be challenging. As a result,incumbent judges and non-judge candidates for judicial office (collectively, “judicial candidates”)are encouraged to submit any campaign-related ethics questions to the Judicial Campaign EthicsCenter (the “JCEC”) to receive guidance about the propriety of various forms of campaign-relatedpolitical activity. Judges and quasi-judicial officials should submit all other ethics inquiries to theNew York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics (the “Committee”).The Advisory Committee on Judicial EthicsIn 1987, the Committee was formed to help New York State judges and justices adhere tothe high standards set forth in the Rules. In 1988, the legislature codified the Committee’screation in Judiciary Law §212(2)(l), which provides that whenever a judge acts in accordancewith an advisory opinion of the Committee, that act is “presumed proper” for purposes of anysubsequent investigation by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Since then,the Committee has issued between 100 and 250 formal opinions annually in response to questionsfrom judges and justices about the propriety of their own political and other activities. Thoseopinions set forth the Committee’s interpretations of the Rules regulating political activities ofjudicial candidates, providing guidance for circumstances not specifically governed by a particularrule.The Judicial Campaign Ethics CenterThe New York State Unified Court System established the JCEC in 2004. Among itsseveral roles, the JCEC serves as liaison to a subcommittee of the Committee to issue quick andreliable responses to judicial candidates with campaign-related ethics inquiries and providescampaign ethics training programs for judicial candidates. It also seeks to educate New YorkState voters about judicial elections. In its role as liaison to the Committee’s Judicial CampaignEthics Subcommittee (the “Subcommittee”), the JCEC provides judicial candidates withresponses to campaign-related ethics questions during the campaign to help them avoid actionablemisconduct and help ensure that candidates act in a way that will maintain public confidence inthe judiciary.Members of the Subcommittee, who also are members of the Committee, review allwritten inquiries from judicial candidates. The JCEC sends each inquiring candidate a writtenresponse from the Subcommittee by e-mail. To facilitate a rapid response (generally within threebusiness days), judicial candidates should e-mail their inquiries to the JCEC. Please visit ourwebsite at http://www.nycourts.gov/ip/jcec/contactus.shtml for details.ii

Please note that the JCEC responses are not published, and thus apply only to theparticular candidate who submitted the inquiry and only for actions taken in connection with thatspecific campaign. By written agreement with the Commission on Judicial Conduct, a judicialcandidate who makes an inquiry and subsequently conforms his/her conduct during that windowperiod to the advice contained in the JCEC’s response is presumed to have acted properly forpurposes of any subsequent investigation by the Commission on Judicial Conduct.The JCEC is only authorized to answer inquiries from a candidate about his/her ownproposed conduct and will not answer questions about the conduct of a candidate’s opponent orinquiries from third parties. All inquiries, whether by telephone, in writing or via electronic mailare, by law, treated as strictly confidential by the JCEC and the Subcommittee.The Judicial Campaign Ethics HandbookTo help make the Committee’s judicial campaign ethics opinions readily available to thosewho need them most, we have summarized selected opinions concerning political activities forthis Judicial Campaign Ethics Handbook. Although the included opinions address questionsfrequently asked by judicial candidates about their own permissible political activities, theHandbook is not intended to be an exclusive source for guidance on this subject. There is nosubstitute for seeking written guidance from the JCEC or the Committee on matters that are notsquarely addressed in a black-letter rule or opinion.In addition, we have included references to opinions issued by the New York State BarAssociation (“NYSBA”) and the Commission on Judicial Conduct (“CJC”), for informationalpurposes only. The Advisory Committee was not involved in generating those opinions, andtherefore does not necessarily endorse them. It is our hope that candidates will seek and follow guidance from the JCEC and theCommittee, in order to reduce the risk of public criticism and to promote public confidence in thejudiciary.1 Although published disciplinary determinations in campaign ethics matters are seldomunanimous – in fact, dissents and concurrences are common – the CJC has nonetheless imposeddiscipline on successful judge or non-judge candidates in each of the last several years, and hasnot been receptive to excuses that a candidate was “unaware of the relevant limitations” (2008CJC Ann. Rep. at 145-50).1The CJC has stated that “[a] judge’s election is tarnished and the integrity of the judiciary is adverselyaffected by misconduct that circumvents the ethical standards imposed on judicial candidates andprovides an unfair advantage over other candidates who respect and abide by the rules. In such cases, wemust consider whether allowing the respondent to retain his or her judgeship would reward misconductand encourage other judicial candidates to ignore the rules, knowing that they may reap the fruits of theirmisconduct” (2013 CJC Ann. Rep. at 75-94).iii

CONTACT INFORMATIONJudicial Campaign Ethics Center (for campaign-related judicial ethics inquiries only)Address:Judicial Campaign Ethics CenterAttn: Rosemary Garland-Scott, Esq., Executive DirectorThe Office of Court Administration25 Beaver Street, Suite 866New York, New York 10004Telephone:Fax:E-mail:Web site:1-888-600-JCEC gov/ip/jcecAdvisory Committee on Judicial Ethics (for any judicial ethics inquiries)Address:Advisory Committee on Judicial EthicsAttn: Laura L. Smith, Esq., Chief CounselNew York State Unified Court System25 Beaver Street, Suite 866New York, NY 10004Telephone:Fax:E-mail:Web site:1-866-79-JUDGE (58343) or 1-212-428-2504On request; speak with the Chief eiv

JUDICIAL CAMPAIGN ETHICS HANDBOOKE-Handbook Hints:* Clicking on underlined opinion numbers provides quick access to referencedopinions.* Alternatively, to search for these and other opinions, you may go to one ofthese sites:www.nycourts.gov JUDGES Ethics Opinionswww.nycourts.gov/ip/jcec Handbook, Rules and Opinions Search EthicsOpinionswww.nycourts.gov/ip/acje Search ACJE Opinions Search Ethics Opinions* The words “above” or “below” following a section number link to thathandbook section.* You may use Ctrl F (or other shortcuts) to search within this document.1. Basic Rule: No Partisan Political ActivityThe Rules generally prohibit full- or part-time judges, or judicial candidates seekingelection to judicial office, from directly or indirectly engaging in any partisan political activity (22NYCRR 100.5; 100.6[A]; pt. 1200 Rule 8.2[b]). As further explained in Section 3.1, below, onevery important exception is that all judges and judicial candidates may at all times be members ofpolitical parties.As discussed in the following sections of this Handbook, the Rules define certain limitedpermissible political activity and conduct so that an individual can advance his/her own candidacyfor elective judicial office (22 NYCRR 100.5[A]).By contrast, as explained further in Section 2.2.7, below, a judge who becomes a candidatefor elective non-judicial office must resign from judicial office.The Committee has advised that “[a] judge who is seeking appointment or re-appointmentto judicial office is not a ‘candidate’ (see 22 NYCRR 100.0[A]) and does not have a ‘windowperiod’ of permissible political activity” (Opinion 14-30; see also Opinions 15-176; 96-97).2. Becoming a CandidateThe definition of “candidate” under the Rules (22 NYCRR 100.0[A]) does not requireobtaining a political party’s nomination or support (see Section 2.2, below).It is often important to determine the date on which an individual becomes a “candidate,”as this typically commences the window period during which a judge may engage in limitedpolitical activity and a non-judge becomes subject to many of the same limitations. In addition, ittriggers financial disclosure obligations for certain candidates (see Section 2.4, below).1

2.1 Pre-Candidacy Activities2.1.1 Testing the WatersA judge may meet privately with the head of a local political committee, political partymembers and leaders, or may appear privately before a party executive committee at any time todiscuss the possibility of becoming a candidate for public office (Opinions 02-34 [judicialcandidacy]; 97-65 [Lieutenant Governor]; 93-55 [district attorney]; 91-44 [another judicialoffice]; 22 NYCRR 100.0[Q]).Such private preliminary discussions with political leaders or officials about a possiblecandidacy are not proscribed political activities under the Rules (Joint Opinion 04-143 and 05-05),and a judge need not form a campaign committee before testing the waters (Opinion 94-30).Accordingly, the pendency of a criminal investigation or indictment against a party leader doesnot render such private discussions impermissible (Joint Opinion 04-143 and 05-05).By contrast, a judge may not contact community residents before his/her window periodbegins to determine if they would support the judge’s candidacy for judicial office, as suchactivity “does not involve a ‘testing of the waters’ about the possibility of receiving backing froma political party, but rather determining what the likelihood is of being supported by the votersthemselves” (Opinion 02-34).2.1.2 Anticipated Vacancies vs Known Judicial VacanciesUntil there is a vacancy in a judicial office, or it is a known fact that a vacancy in suchoffice will occur, a prospective candidate cannot be deemed a candidate for that judicial office(Opinions 08-189; 99-14; 97-45).In practice, this means that a prospective candidate for an anticipated vacancy may notannounce his/her candidacy, allow the solicitation of funds, or engage in other political activitythat would otherwise be permissible in furtherance of a judicial campaign, unless and until it isknown that there is to be a vacancy and therefore an election to fill it (Opinions 08-189; 97-45).However, a judge may apply to a political party's judicial screening panel to determinehis/her qualifications for a particular judicial office at a time when there are no actual, knownvacancies for such office provided (1) there is a good-faith reason to believe there will be avacancy later in the same election cycle; (2) the judicial screening panel process is available to allpotential candidates; and (3) the panel is an official screening panel, such as a standing panel of anexisting political party (Opinion 09-40).As the Committee noted in Opinion 14-178:When a judicial vacancy arises at the end of a judge’s fullterm of office, or when a judge’s term otherwise ends early byoperation of law due to the judge’s age, calculation of the windowperiod is relatively straightforward according to the principlesoutlined above. In such circumstances, there is no doubt a judicial2

vacancy will occur as of a certain date. Similarly, if a judge hasresigned or died, or has been removed from office, there is no doubta judicial vacancy currently exists. In any of these circumstances, ifthe judicial office is an elective one, it is certain that an electionmust be held in a particular year to fill the vacancy (see N.Y.Const., Art. VI, § 21).In other circumstances, however, there is some uncertainty about whether a vacancy willarise in a particular election year, and whether there is a “known judicial vacancy” is a factdependent determination. So far, the Committee has addressed a few of these circumstances: Scenario: Incumbent announces retirement but has not yet retired. The fact that the incumbent “has publicly stated that [he/she] is consideringretiring from the bench” is not sufficient to establish that there is an actual,known judicial vacancy (Opinion 99-14). An incumbent judge’s public announcement that he/she will retire from thebench on a specific date, when coupled with an additional significant andreliable affirmative step to effectuate his/her retirement, is sufficient tocreate a known judicial vacancy for the purpose of determining when thewindow period opens and individuals may publicly announce their interestin seeking election to the position (Opinion 15-04).Scenario: Incumbent may receive an interim appointment to a higher office, subject

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