Opinion No.: AO-102-08
June 17, 2008
Digest: The Rules do not prohibit administrative law judge ("ALJ") membership on a committee established for a candidate for elective citywide office.
Rule: 48 RCNY Appendix A: ""Rules of Conduct for Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers of the City of New York," Sections 105(A)-(E) and 102(C).
Opinion: An administrative law judge inquires whether, under the applicable codes, the ALJ may be a member of a lawyers' committee-host committee for a candidate for city-wide office. Although not explicitly stated, this request is being treated as made pursuant to Section 107 of the Rules of Conduct for Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers of the City of New York ("Rules"), 48 RCNY, App. A, which authorizes us to issue advisory opinions with respect to those Rules.
The issue raised in the inquiry is as follows:
Whether membership on a committee established for a candidate for elective citywide office violates the Rules of Conduct.
Section 105 of the Rules, which addresses political activity, does not prohibit an ALJ from participating in a committee established for a candidate for elective citywide office to the extent that such activity does "not detract from, or reduce public confidence in, the fairness, impartiality or dignity of his or her office or the tribunal he or she serves [and is not] in violation of Chapter 68 of the City Charter or any other applicable law." Rules § 105(E). For example, ALJ membership in a candidate's committee would be prohibited if the candidate were to run a campaign that peculiarly focused on issues related to the tribunal on which the ALJ serves. Furthermore, the ALJ's conduct is not prohibited by the Rules as the ALJ will not be "act[ing] as a leader or hold[ing] an office in a political organization" and will instead be a member of a committee. Rules § 105(A). Moreover, the ALJ will not be "solicit[ing] funds for a political organization or candidate." Rules § 105(B).
The ALJ's membership in the committee is additionally permitted as long as it does not violate Section 102(C) of the Rules, which provides that an ALJ "shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the City administrative law judge or others; nor shall a City administrative law judge convey to others, or permit others to convey, the impression that they are in a special position to influence him or her." This rule prohibits, among other things, the use of the ALJ's title in conjunction with the membership, thereby prohibiting display of the title in campaign literature, on websites, in advertisements, in publications, and in other similar materials. To the extent that the ALJ's membership on a committee established for a candidate for citywide elective office does not violate Rules §§ 105(A)-(E) and 102(C), it is permitted.