NYSBA Ethics Opinion 12

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics Committee Opinion

Opinion #12- 04/23/1965 (12-64)

Topic: Endorsement of Judicial and Other Candidates
Digest: Not improper for lawyers to endorse judicial and other political candidates if endorsement is not a form of indirect advertising
Canon: Former Canon 27

QUESTION

You have requested an opinion as to the propriety of an advertisement appearing in a daily newspaper during a politic/al campaign signed by a number of attorneys urging the election of candidates for public office. You have also asked whether a distinction is to be made between urging the election of candidates for judicial office and candidates for other offices, such as President, U.S. Senator, etc,

OPINION

The Committee’s views with respect to the endorsement of judicial candidates by attorneys have been set forth in Opinion No. 11 – 4/23/65 (11-64). The publication of an advertisement listing such endorsements is not improper. However, each attorney listed in the advertisement has the obligation to ensure that his endorsement is not improper for reasons listed in the foregoing opinion and to ensure that the advertisement is in a form not likely to be interpreted as violating the indirect advertisement prohibition of Canon 27 of the Canons of Professional Ethics.  For example the Committee would regard as improper the inclusion in the advertisement of attorneys’ firm names or addresses.The publication of an advertisement which identifies a number of attorneys urging the election of a candidate for some office other than a judicial office is not improper provided the individuals listed in the advertisement are all attorneys. In such cases the apparent purpose of the advertisement is to convey the impression that a significant number of the members of one profession support the election of a particular candidate. On the other hand, if such an advertisement lists a number of individuals endorsing a candidate only some of whom are attorneys, the identification of certain individuals as attorneys would be improper, Since the usual purpose of such advertisements is to convey the impression that leading citizens are in accord as to the virtues of particular candidates, the identification of certain of the signers as attorneys is unnecessary and constitutes indirect advertising condemned by Canon 27.

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