Ethics panel finds judges may keep $1,000 in unspent campaign funds

money, file 2012. REUTERS Steve Marcus

Ethics panel finds judges may keep $1,000 in unspent campaign funds

12/28/2012 COMMENTS (0)

By Daniel Wiessner

ALBANY, N.Y., Dec 28 (Reuters) – A new ruling by the New York State Committee on Judicial Ethics has increased significantly the amount of unspent campaign funds that judges are allowed to keep after an election.

Responding to a letter from an unnamed, recently elected judge, the panel of 26 active and retired judges voted to allow judges to keep unspent campaign war chests of $1,000 or less, up from the previous limit of $150.

The panel found that judges may keep sums of $1,000 or less to be used for any “legal, non-political purpose,” such as purchasing office supplies. If the remaining war chest exceeds $1,000, the judge must return the balance to campaign donors on a prorated basis, the committee said.

If a judge had $1,500 remaining, for example, he would have to return $500 to donors.

The $1,000 cutoff is based on a 2008 opinion, in which the committee found that anything less than $1,000 constitutes a “minimal amount” of unspent campaign funds.

Judges may not donate the unspent money to any entity, including a charity, and may not use the funds in subsequent political campaigns, the panel wrote.

The committee’s decisions are not legally binding but may form the basis of disciplinary action against judges.

The decision was published in the New York Law Journal on Thursday and overruled a 1999 opinion establishing the $150 amount.

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Ethics panel finds judges may keep $1,000 in unspent campaign funds