May 5, 2022
Digest: A judicial candidate who learns that their political party is circulating petitions naming them as a candidate for non-judicial office must request in writing that the party immediately cease circulating the petitions and advise that, if elected, the candidate will decline to serve. Once that is done, the candidate has no further obligation.
Rules: Election Law § 6-100; 22 NYCRR 100.5(A)(1)(a); 100.5(A)(1)(c); Opinions 21-50; 15-19; 99-138.
The inquirer, a non-judge who is a declared candidate for Supreme Court, recently learned that a political party has listed the inquirer’s name on two petitions, on one as a candidate for district leader, and on another as a candidate for an alternate delegate to the upcoming judicial nominating convention. The judicial candidate asks if they may permit their name to appear on these petitions.
A non-judge seeking election to judicial office may participate in “his or her own campaign for elective judicial office” as permitted by the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, but must not otherwise engage in any partisan political activity unless an exception applies (22 NYCRR 100.5[A][c]). Moreover, the rules expressly forbid judicial candidates from “acting as a leader or holding an office in a political organization” (22 NYCRR 100.5[A][a]).
Applying these principles, we conclude that a declared candidate for elective judicial office must not simultaneously run for election to any non-judicial office, including that of district leader or alternate delegate.
Where, as here, a judicial candidate learns that a political party is circulating petitions seeking to nominate or designate them for election to non-judicial public office or party position (see Election Law § 6-100 et seq.), the candidate must request in writing that the political party immediately cease circulating the petitions and advise that, if elected, the candidate will decline to serve (cf. Opinion 21-50 [“authorizing or knowingly permitting the judge’s name to be circulated to the public on a nominating petition is ... a clear public manifestation of the judge’s interest in being elected to the position”]). Once the candidate has objected in writing, however, the candidate need not take any further action (see e.g., Opinions 15-19; 99-138).