JUDICIAL CAMPAIGN ETHICS The Judicial Campaign Ethics Handbook . To help make the Committee’s judicial

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  • JUDICIAL CAMPAIGN ETHICS HANDBOOK of the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics

    (2019 Edition)

    FOREWORD .................................................................................................................................. ii

    CONTACT INFORMATION ........................................................................................................ iv

    JUDICIAL CAMPAIGN ETHICS HANDBOOK ......................................................................... 1

    1. Basic Rule: No Partisan Political Activity .......................................................................... 1

    2. Becoming a Candidate ........................................................................................................ 1

    2.1 Pre-Candidacy Activities ........................................................................................ 1

    2.1.1 Testing the Waters ...................................................................................... 1

    2.1.2 Anticipated Vacancies vs Known Judicial Vacancies ................................ 2

    2.2 Candidacy and Window Period Defined ................................................................. 3

    2.2.1 Definition of “Candidate”; Announcement of Candidacy .......................... 3

    2.2.2 “Window Period” Defined .......................................................................... 4

    2.2.3 Candidates Who Are Unopposed ................................................................ 5

    2.2.4 Repeat Candidates; Candidates Who Are Running Two Years in a Row .. 5

    2.2.5 Candidates Who Currently Hold Non-Judicial Public Office ..................... 6

    2.2.6 Candidates for Town or Village Justice Positions ...................................... 6

    2.2.7 Judge as Candidate for Non-Judicial Office ............................................... 7

    2.3 Mandatory Education Program ............................................................................... 7

    2.4 Mandatory Financial Disclosure ............................................................................. 8

    3. Limits on Permissible Political Activity ............................................................................. 8

    3.1 Membership in Political Parties; Voting; Signing Nominating Petitions ............... 8

    3.2 Membership in Political Clubs or Organizations .................................................... 9

    3.3 Endorsement by Political Organizations and Other Persons and Entities .............. 9

    3.3.1 Questionnaires........................................................................................... 12

    3.3.2 Screening Panels ....................................................................................... 12

    3.3.3 Limited Endorsement of Judicial Convention Delegate by Supreme Court Candidate in Furtherance of His/Her Own Candidacy ............................. 14

    3.4 Nominating and Designating Petitions ................................................................. 15

    3.5 Attendance at Political Gatherings........................................................................ 16

    3.6 Attendance at Charitable Gatherings or Events .................................................... 19

  • 4. Fund-Raising and Use of Campaign Funds During the Campaign................................... 20

    4.1 Campaign Committees .......................................................................................... 21

    4.1.1 Specific Fund-Raising Strategies and Techniques .................................... 23

    4.2 Joint Fund-Raising ................................................................................................ 24

    4.3 Proper Utilization of Campaign Funds ................................................................. 25

    4.3.1 Special Considerations - Payments to Political Committees and Others .. 26

    4.3.2 Post-Election Window Period ................................................................... 27

    4.4 Special Considerations - Candidate Who Anticipates Running for Two Positions in the Same Election Cycle ................................................................................... 28

    5. Communications with Voters ........................................................................................... 28

    5.1 Form of Advertisements ....................................................................................... 28

    5.2 Use of Judicial Title, Robes, and Courthouse ....................................................... 31

    5.3 Content of Campaign Speech................................................................................ 33

    5.3.1 Truthfulness .............................................................................................. 33

    5.3.2 Pledges and Promises ................................................................................ 34

    5.3.3 Public Endorsement or Opposition ........................................................... 34

    5.3.4 Additional Issues and Topics .................................................................... 35

    5.4 Judicial Decisions Affecting Campaign Activities and Comments ...................... 38

    5.4.1 “Announce Clause” Restrictions Struck Down ........................................ 38

    5.4.2 “Pledge and Promise” Restrictions Remain in Effect ............................... 38

    5.5 Joint Campaigning ................................................................................................ 39

    5.6 Debates .................................................................................................................. 40

    6. Involvement of Friends, Family, and Colleagues in Judicial Campaigns......................... 41

    6.1 Judge’s Staff Participating in the Judge’s Campaign ........................................... 41

    6.2 Participation of a Judicial Candidate’s Family ..................................................... 42

    7. Post-Election Fund-Raising and Use of Campaign Funds ................................................ 43

    7.1 Unexpended or Surplus Campaign Funds............................................................. 44

    7.1.1 Permissible Uses and Closing of the Campaign Account ......................... 44

    7.1.2 Prohibited Uses ......................................................................................... 46

    7.1.3 Candidate Running for the Same Position Two Years in a Row .............. 47

    7.2 Post-Election Fund-Raising .................................................................................. 47

    7.3 Other Post-Election Conduct ................................................................................ 49

  • 8. Campaign-Related Disqualifications ................................................................................ 49

    8.1 Campaign Contributions – Legal and Administrative Considerations ................. 50

    8.2 Pledge or Promise ................................................................................................. 51

    8.3 Endorsements ........................................................................................................ 52

    8.4 During the Campaign ............................................................................................ 52

    8.5 After the Campaign: The Two-Year Rule ............................................................ 53

    9. Additional Reminders for Sitting Judges .......................................................................... 55

    TABLE OF AUTHORITIES ........................................................................................................ 57

    SUBJECT MATTER INDEX ....................................................................................................... 61

  • i

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    Special thanks are due to the Judicial Campaign Handbook subcommittee for the initial draft of the Handbook in 2003: Hon. Edward P. Borrelli, Hon. Lawrence J. Bracken, Hon. Jerome C. Gorski, and Maryrita Dobiel, Esq.

    The 2019 Edition of the Handbook was prepared by a subcommittee appointed by Hon. George D. Marlow and Hon. Margaret T. Walsh, consisting of Rosemary Garland-Scott, Esq., Hon. Edward P. Borrelli, Josefina Lessey, Sherice Goodwine, and Laura L. Smith, Esq. The 2019 Edition includes opinions issued as of September 30, 2019.

  • ii

    FOREWORD

    Although many judges and justices of the New York State Unified Court System are chosen through a partisan electoral process, they are prohibited from engaging in political activities, except as authorized by the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct (22 NYCRR Part 100) or other provisions of law. While the Rules prescribe the parameters of ethically permissible political 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 Ethics Center (the “JCEC”) to receive guidance about the propriety of various forms of campaign-related political activity. Judges and quasi-judicial officials should submit all other ethics inquiries to the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics (the “Committee