The committee has not, however, previously issued an Opinion addressing whether a judicial candidate may include links to the websites of political organizations.
The Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly took a position on the subject approximately a decade ago. In the "Observations and Recommendations" section of its 2001 Annual Report, the commission stated (see 2001 Ann Rep of NY Commn on Jud Conduct, at 28): [S]ince the Rules prohibit a judicial candidate from participating in political activity other than his or her own campaign, it would violate the Rules for a judicial candidate's website to include electronic links to the website of another candidate or a political organization. This is especially so since the judicial candidate would have no control over the content of the linked website.
The commission further noted that it had received a complaint about a judicial candidate who linked to a political website that automatically played a slide show of candidate profiles.
Use of the Internet, while certainly not unusual in 2001, has become almost inescapably routine to ever-increasing numbers of people over the past 10 years.8 The committee believes that Internet users today are able to appreciate that when two websites are independently maintained and controlled by separate entities, a link from one site to the other does not make them into a single site. No special sophistication is required to understand that if website "A" links to website "B," the owner of website "A" likely does not control the content of website "B" and does not necessarily agree with all statements appearing on website "B." Nor is it reasonable to believe that the mere existence of such a link automatically incorporates website "B's" content into site "A."
A judicial candidate may appear in person or in media advertisements with other candidates on the same slate (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][iii]) and may campaign door-to-door with other candidates (see Opinion 91-94 [Vol. VIII]). A judicial candidate may identify him/herself as a member of a political party (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][ii]) and may solicit, accept and advertise the endorsement of political parties (cf. Opinion 93-52 [Vol. XI]). The committee has also advised that a judicial candidate may allow a political party to issue joint campaign literature that lists the judicial candidate with other candidates for elective office (see Opinions 01-99 [Vol. XX]; 89-125 [Vol. IV]). Linking to a political party's site is another way to achieve the same result.
Accordingly, the committee concludes that a judicial candidate may link to the website of a political party that has endorsed him/her. This provides a way for the candidate to demonstrate that he/she in fact has obtained the party's support. The candidate should be careful that the link is not presented in such a way that it appears to vouch for or adopt the content of the political party's site (cf. Opinion 93-52 [Vol. XI]). And, the candidate's own website, including the wording of any links, must be consistent with the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.
1. Although a non-judge judicial candidate is not subject to Sections 100.2 or 100.2(A), he/she must, among other things, maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office and act in a manner consistent with the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A][a]).
2. Any solicitation or acceptance of contributions for a judicial candidate's campaign must be done during the window period by a committee of responsible persons appointed by the candidate (see 22 NYCRR 100.5[A]).
3. Although there is a modest charge for the luncheon, the judge states that the ticket price is intended only to cover expenses of the luncheon and not to raise funds (cf. Opinions 05-104 [judge may be honored at an educational foundation's breakfast, even if there may be some small net sum which may benefit the sponsor, where "the stated intent of the event is to honor prominent graduates of the institution and not to raise funds"]; 95-161 [Vol. XIV] [looking to the "stated intent of the organization" as well as the surrounding circumstances in determining "whether the activity is or is not a fundraiser"]).
4. The committee notes that a different analysis may apply if the judicial candidate is invited to a political party's fundraiser as part of the party's entire local slate (compare Opinion 91-02 [Vol. VII] with Opinion 94-15 [Vol. XII]).