March 10, 2022
Digest: A judicial candidate may permit their spouse to serve on their campaign committee as treasurer or assistant treasurer, provided the candidate concludes their spouse is a responsible person who will abide by applicable law and ethical rules.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q); 100.5(A)(1)(h); 100.5(A)(2); 100.5(A)(2)(I); 100.5(A)(4)(c); 100.5(A)(5); Opinion 08-125/08-147/08-148/08-149.
The inquiring judge, an announced candidate for elective judicial office, asks if their spouse may serve on their campaign committee as a treasurer or assistant treasurer for purposes of recording, reporting, keeping track of spending, and filing reports with the reporting authority. The candidate acknowledges that their spouse must shield the candidate from knowing the identities of contributors and amounts contributed. The campaign committee’s mailing address is a rented business mailbox (rather than the marital residence), and the candidate’s spouse will not be personally soliciting contributions.
In general, a judge or non-judge seeking election to judicial office must not “directly or indirectly” engage in political activity, except for participating in their own campaign for judicial office (22 NYCRR 100.5[A]). A judicial candidate must not personally solicit or accept campaign contributions from any source (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][h]; 100.5[A][I]), but may establish a committee of “responsible persons” to solicit and accept reasonable campaign contributions during the applicable window period (22 NYCRR 100.5[A]; 100.5[A][c]; 100.0[Q] [defining “window period”]).
Applying these principles, we have advised that “judicial candidates should be shielded, to the extent possible, from learning the identity of campaign contributors and the amount or value of their contributions” (Opinion 08-125/08-147/08-148/08-149). Nonetheless, we have also advised that a judicial candidate may permit their relatives, including their own spouse, to serve on their campaign committee “as long as the judicial candidate determines that they are ‘responsible persons’ who will abide by applicable laws and ethical rules” (id.).
Here, too, provided the candidate concludes that their spouse is a “responsible person” who will abide by applicable law and ethical rules, the candidate may allow their spouse to serve on their campaign committee as treasurer or assistant treasurer and perform related duties such as recording, reporting, keeping track of spending, and filing reports with the reporting authority. While not strictly relevant here, we note for future reference that a judicial candidate may also permit their spouse to engage in fund-raising activities on their behalf, subject to all applicable legal and ethical limitations (see id.).