Opinion No.: AO-101-07
March 8, 2007
Digest: A city administrative law judge may run for re-election as a member of a local school district Community Education Council, without resigning his or her position as an administrative law judge, where (1) the selection process for the council is not a "public election" and the judge would therefore not be a "candidate" for office, as per the meaning of the Rules, and 2) the nature of the duties of a member of the council do not appear to conflict with the nature of the judge's work as an administrative law judge. In connection thereto, a city administrative law judge may also mention, for informational purposes, his or her title in a campaign speech or biography, but must take care not to use the title to enhance his or her re-election prospects.
Rule: 48 RCNY Appendix A: "Rules of Conduct for Administrative law Judges and Hearing Officers of the City of New York," Sections 100(A); 102 (C); 104 (A)(2); 105 (C)
Opinion: A city administrative law judge asks whether the judge may (1) run for re-election as a member of a local school district Community Education Council and (2) mention the judge's title in a campaign speech and biography in connection thereto.
Section 105(C) of the Rules provides in relevant part: "A City administrative law judge shall resign from office and withdraw his or her name from any roster for assignment or employment as a City administrative law judge upon becoming a candidate for elective non-judicial office..." Section 100(A) defines the term "candidate" as "a person seeking selection for or retention in public office by any public election, including primary and general elections and including partisan and nonpartisan elections."
According to the Department of Education, election of members of Community Education Councils is determined by the votes of officers of parent and parent-teacher associations. See Chancellor's Message, "Notice: The Community and Citywide Education Council deadline for the 2007-09 term is fast approaching" (1/07), www.schools.nyc.gov/ChancellorMessage ("While all parents are eligible to run, only officers of parent and parent-teacher associations are able to vote."). A "public election" as used in Section 100(A) of the Rules is one in which participation is extended broadly to members of the public, as in a general or primary election. A selection process involving the votes of officers of parent and parent-teacher associations only is not a "public election" within the meaning of Section 100(A) of the Rules. The judge's application for re-election as a member of the Community Education Council thus would not make the judge a "candidate" for office, and the judge would not be required to terminate his or her position as an administrative law judge under Section 105(C).
Nothing in the Rules prohibits a city administrative law judge from mentioning his or her title as an administrative law judge in describing, for informational purposes, the judge's employment or career in a campaign speech or biography. We note, however, that Section 102(C) of the Rules provides in relevant part: "A City administrative law judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the City administrative law judge..." We note also that Section 104(A)(2) provides that a "City administrative law judge shall conduct all of his or her extra-judicial activities so that they . . . do not detract from the dignity of judicial office..." It does not appear that there is any close connection between the judge's work as an administrative law judge and the duties of a member of the Community Education Council. (If there were, that might raise other concerns under Section 104, inter alia.) Therefore, in campaigning for re-election to the Community Education Council, the judge should avoid suggesting that his or her retention is particularly warranted because of his or her status as an administrative law judge.