The Judicial Campaign Ethics Center is part of the New York State Unified Court System’s Office of Court Administration. Our role is educational and advisory in nature; the Center is not charged with investigative or disciplinary powers.
This page addresses questions that are frequently asked by voters or other members of the public. If you are seeking elective judicial office, or working on a judicial candidate's campaign, you may wish to start with the Candidate Questions.
What is the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center?
We provide ethics advice to judicial candidates about their own prospective campaign conduct; provide ethics training for judicial candidates; and inform the public about judicial elections through this website and our annual judicial candidate voter guide for the general election.
We help candidates for judicial office in fulfilling their obligations under the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct (22 NYCRR part 100) and the Opinions of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, which interpret the Rules.
Through all of these activities, we seek to promote public confidence in judicial elections in the State of New York. For more information, please visit the "About Us" page.
Where should I go with an ethics concern or complaint about someone else's conduct?
The Judicial Campaign Ethics Center's role is educational and advisory in nature; we cannot address or respond to complaints, and are not authorized to respond to hypothetical questions, or to questions about a third party's conduct (i.e., the conduct of any person other than the inquiring candidate him/herself).
You may, however, get a sense of the rules and opinions that govern the conduct of judicial candidates using tools available on our website. The Judicial Campaign Ethics Handbook provides a general overview and introduction to judicial campaign ethics and provides links to many of the opinions cited, and the Advisory Committee's online search engine allows you to search the website directly for additional opinions that may be of interest.
If you would like to file a complaint about a judicial candidate who is currently an attorney, a court employee, or a judge, please visit www.nycourts.gov/howdoi/fileacomplaint.shtml for more information.
Where else might I go to learn more about ethics and/or elections in New York State?
Here are a few additional New York State government resources that may be helpful on matters of ethics and/or elections in the State of New York. Please note that the following entities and websites are entirely independent of the Unified Court System, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, and the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center.
- New York State Board of Elections
- New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct
- New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics
- New York State Legislative Ethics Commission
- Office of the New York State Attorney General
Which judges are elected in New York, and what do they do?
Pursuant to Article VI of the New York State Constitution and applicable law, the judiciary is made up of both elected and appointed judges. Elective judicial offices include: Civil Court; some City Courts (outside of New York City); County Court; District Court; Family Court (outside of New York City); Supreme Court; Surrogate's Court; and the Town and Village Courts.
Visit the Voter Guide home page for a quick overview of state-paid elective judicial offices, including the powers (jurisdiction) of each court, the method of selection, and the term of office.
You may also download the latest version of The New York State Courts: An Introductory Guide for additional information.
Why are judicial campaigns different from campaigns for other elective offices?
As a general matter, judges are not permitted to be involved in political activities. However, for a designated period of time (known as the "window period"), a judge who is running for office may become involved in political activities in a limited way to advance his or her own candidacy.
To help maintain public confidence in the integrity, independence and impartiality of the judiciary, both judges and non-judges who are running for elective judicial office must follow the Rules pertaining to judicial elections (22 NYCRR 100.5).
What are some of the limitations in a judicial race that do not apply to other elective offices?
Key limitations include:
- Judicial candidates may not personally solicit or accept campaign contributions. All fund-raising must take place through a committee whom the judicial candidate selects.
- Judicial candidates may not make pledges or promises of how they would decide matters that come before them.
- Judicial candidates may not endorse any other candidate for elective office, and may not make political contributions.
The Rules and Handbook discuss these and other limitations. You may also wish to check for updates as new campaign ethics opinions are issued from time to time. Candidates may also contact us for an advisory opinion throughout their campaign.
How can I find out what judgeships are open in my area?
The State Board of Elections and/or County Boards of Election, as appropriate, may make publicly available their lists of candidates certified for a primary or general election ballot and copies of certain filings by the candidates or their campaign committees.
How can I find out about judicial candidates in my area?
Additional materials for incumbent judges. You may be able to review reported decisions written by an incumbent judge, and find his/her biographical information on the New York State Unified Court System web site.
Campaign materials. You may look for candidates’ campaign web sites, political party web sites, and candidate or party advertisements.
How can I register to vote?
For questions about voting or the Election Law, contact the New York State Board of Elections for more information.