ALBANY - As the 2003 campaign season approaches full bloom, the New York State Bar Association will continue to coordinate a statewide effort to ensure that both incumbent judges and candidates are conforming to the codes of Judicial Conduct and (Lawyer's) Professional Responsibility, said NYSBA President A. Thomas Levin (Meyer Suozzi English & Klein, PC) of Mineola.
“By working to improve judicial campaign conduct, we are ultimately working to build confidence and trust in the legal profession and the judicial system. Maintaining a positive tone for all judicial campaigns will help ensure continued respect for the rule of law, the cornerstone of our democracy,” said Levin.
The Committee on Judicial Campaign Conduct, chaired by Syracuse lawyer Michael A. Klein, spearheads the bar association’s efforts in this area. Formed two years ago in response to a request from the Administrative Board of the Courts and a call from the National Center for State Courts to establish groups to encourage fair judicial campaigns, the committee works with local bar associations to ensure that campaigns waged by both incumbent judges and candidates comply with both codes.
County bar associations will review complaints about judicial campaign practices at the local level. Bar associations in Erie, Monroe, Onondaga, New York City and others already have in place judicial campaign conduct committees at various stages of operation. In areas where local bar associations are unable to provide such service, a state bar committee will be available.
The NYSBA also publishes a pamphlet, The High Road – Rules for Conducting a Judicial Campaign in New York, which is available to candidates, their committees and the media. The publication focuses on three main areas: Campaign Themes – avoiding the pitfalls, Campaign Boundaries – media and appearances, and Fundraising – the limitations.
The pamphlet points out that “judges are not political candidates in the traditional sense. They do not represent constituents; they represent the law.” It also notes that while “a candidate will have views on disputed legal or political issues, a public pronouncement of these views may be seen as an indication of how the candidate would decide cases as a judge, (giving) the impression that the candidate would not approach a case involving those issues with an open mind.”
For further information about the availability of a local judicial campaign conduct committee in your county, contact NYSBA counsel Kathleen Baxter at 518-463-3200.
NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION, ONE ELK STREET, ALBANY, NY 12207 PH: (518) 463-3200 SECURE FX: (518) 463-5993