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State of New York

Judicial Campaigns and Elections: New York

Campaign Conduct

According to Canon 5 of New York’s rules governing judicial conduct, judicial candidates shall not:
  • Make pledges or promises of conduct in office that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office
  • With respect to cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court, make commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office.
  • Knowingly make any false statement or misrepresent the identity, qualifications, current position or other fact concerning the candidate or an opponent.
  • Personally solicit or accept campaign contributions.

Candidates may establish campaign committees to solicit and accept reasonable campaign contributions, manage campaign funds, and obtain public statements of support. Committees may not solicit or accept contributions or support except during the candidate's "window period" as defined in the rules governing judicial conduct. (This window period starts nine months before the earliest date on which the candidate may secure the nomination and ends six months after the termination of the candidacy.)

In 2003, New York's state and federal courts heard challenges to the constitutionality of various provisions of the state's rules governing judicial conduct. In February 2003, in Spargo v. New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, a federal district court judge struck down as unconstitutionally vague canon provisions that require judges to adhere to high standards of conduct, to act in a manner that promotes public confidence, and to refrain from most political activity. In June 2003, in Matter of Raab and Matter of Watson, the New York Court of Appeals confirmed the constitutionality of canon provisions that bar active judges from engaging in partisan politics and prohibit judicial candidates from making promises to voters that interfere with the impartial administration of justice. According to the court, these provisions are narrowly drawn to meet a legitimate interest. In December 2003, a federal appeals court vacated the Spargo decision and ruled that the federal district court should have deferred to the pending state disciplinary proceeding. 244 F.Supp.2d 72 (2nd Cir. 2003).