November 7, 1983
Opinion No.: 83/13
Judge's attendance at social events and partisan political functions
This is in response to your inquiry of September 13, 1983. Your first question relates to the propriety of a judge attending functions put on by political parties. Enclosed are copies of our Opinions 79/10, 78/6, 77/15, and 74/2. In Opinion 79/10 we said it was a violation of Canon 7 for a judge, who is not a candidate, to attend partisan political functions for the purpose of socializing, speaking and/or being introduced to the audience. In Opinion 78/6 we found no impropriety in a judge addressing a Republican Club and speaking on his candidacy for re-election. We cautioned that the function not be a fund-raising affair and that the judge's remarks not be partisan nor politically oriented. We also held that a judge who is a candidate could attend a partisan function for the purpose of socializing and making himself known. In Opinion 77/15 (question 5) we held that a judicial candidate seeking election or re-election may attend political functions or rallies where other candidates are in attendance. In summary, then, a judge who is a candidate may attend and may speak. A judge who is not a candidate may not.
The only exception to that is covered by our Opinion 74/3, a copy of which is also attached, which holds that a judge may properly address a function put on by a political party concerning an educational matter related to his office.
Your second inquiry is the propriety of accepting invitations to attend grand opening, which may involve gratuitous food or drink. The nine members of the Committee responding agreed this should not present a problem, unless the judge recognizes that the motive for such invitation is to obtain the benefit of the prestige of the judge's office. It is doubtful that any grand opening, which is publicly advertised, would have any such improper motive. Such invitations are analogous to the invitations received from Disney World and Sea World in the form of memberships to the "Dolphin Club: and "Magic Kingdom Club," which serve to encourage a broad spectrum of public employees to visit the respective attractions. Because of the broadness of the offering, it would be difficult to impute any improper motive to the offeror in terms of attempting to garner the prestige of the offeree's office.
James T. Carlisle
Chairman, Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Participating members: Judges Carlisle, Booth, Hewitt, Letts, Turner, Green, Grube, Tedder, and Attorney Samuel Powers, Jr.