September 21, 1976
Re: Canon 7B
This is in response to your recent letter inquiring whether a candidate for judicial office, either incumbent or not, may solicit or accept campaign contributions before he has active and announced opposition. A majority of the Committee (5-4) is of the opinion that the question should be answered in the affirmative.
The majority view was premised upon a consideration of the general law pertaining to all candidates (chapters 99 and 106) as well as the pertinent provisions of Canon 7, Code of Judicial Conduct, pertaining to the campaign conduct of judicial candidates.
Canon 7B(2) sets up the proper procedure whereby a candidate including an incumbent judge, is authorized to solicit campaign funds. Canon 7B(2) provides:
An incumbent judge who is a candidate for retention in or re-election
to office without a competing candidate, and whose candidacy has drawn active
opposition, may campaign in response thereto and may obtain publicly stated
support and campaign funds in the manner provided in subsection B(2)."
In particular, the majority is of the view that reference to "active opposition" does not limit or otherwise prohibit a candidate for judicial office from soliciting or accepting campaign contributions so long as such judicial candidate complies with the provisions of Canon 7B(2) and the pertinent sections of the campaign reporting laws. To require a judicial candidate to wait for "active opposition" before accepting campaign contributions would necessitate a more restrictive interpretation of the general campaign financing law that is presently applicable to all other candidates for public office. The majority felt that any doubt as to the meaning of the phrase "active opposition" should be resolved in favor of an interpretation consistent with the general campaign financing law.
We appreciate your interest and trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Chairman, Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Participating members: Boyer, Carlisle, Haverfield, Hewitt, Murphee, O'Connell, Stephenson and Thomas MacDonald, Esquire