Opinion 77-21

January 10, 1978

Re: Canon 7

Dear Judge:


This is in response to your inquiry to the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges where you ask if the following violates the letter and spirit of Canon 7.

"1. attending a partisan political club meeting to give a speech solely relating to a county court judge's role in the judicial system and in the improvement of the administration of justice, prior to the time of qualifying for election as a candidate for county court as an incumbent;

2. attending the meeting of a non-partisan civil, social or homeowner's association to give a speech solely relating to a county judge's role in the judicial system and in the improvement of the administration of justice, prior to the time of qualifying for the judicial office presently held;

3. attending a partisan political club meeting solely to be introduced as a county court judge, (i.e., as a guest) prior to the time of qualifying for the judicial office presently held;

4. giving a speech in behalf of one's candidacy for the judicial office presently held as an incumbent, at a partisan political club meeting, after the time of qualifying for such elective judicial office (if permissible, then what can the incumbent judge permissibly do, if anything, at the partisan club meeting, after he had duly qualified for election to the judicial office then held);

5. writing a purely informational column concerning the function of a county court judge, ways of improving the administration of civil and criminal justice in county court, in a local weekly newspaper of limited circulation, upon a regular or occasional basis (see Canon 4, Section A); and

6. attending the testimonial dinner of another judge (county court or circuit court) in the same circuit (this appears to be clearly proscribed by Section A(1)(b) and the commentary thereto)."

 

Your inquiries will be answered in the order of presentation as follows:

Inquiry No. 1: Six members are of the view that such conduct is permissible under Canon 7A(2) which provides that:

"A judge holding an office filled by public election between competing candidates, or a candidate for such office, may,...attend political gatherings, speak to such gatherings on his own behalf when he is a candidate for election or re-election."

Two members of the Committee are of the view that Canon 7A proscribes such activity for the reason that the activity described involves partisan political gatherings.

Inquiry No. 2: Eight members of the Committee express the view that the conduct anticipated by this inquiry is permissible under Canon 4A which provides:

"He may speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system and the administration of justice."

subject always, of course, to the introductory paragraph of the Canon which provides:

"A judge, subject to the proper performances of his judicial duties may engage in the following quasi-judicial activities, if in doing so he does not cast doubt on his capacity to decide impartially an issue that may come before him:

Inquiry No. 3 Six members of the Committee vote that this conduct is permissible under the Canons while two members vote that such conduct is not permissible.

Inquiry No. 4 Six members of the Committee are of the view that such is permissible under the Canons and two members are of the view that such is not permissible.

Although perhaps beyond the scope of the questions as framed, six members of the Committee are of the view that that portion of the Canon which provides "when hi is a candidate for election or re election" should not be so narrowly construed as to permit the anticipated conduct only if a candidate has qualified and commenced making the reports as required by law. In other words, those members are of the view that the conduct there anticipated should be permissible when a candidate, whether announced or unannounced and whether incumbent or new, is in fact seeking elective judicial office.

Inquiry No. 5 Eight members of the committee express the view that such conduct is permissible under Canon 4A and is not proscribed by any other Canon.

Inquiry No. 6 Six members of the Committee are of the view that this conduct is permissible under the Canons while two members are of the view that such conduct is proscribed by the Canons.

The query appears to anticipate by the parenthetical statement by which question 6 is concluded that the anticipated conduct which is the subject of that query is proscribed by Canon 7A(1)(b) which provides:

"A judge or a candidate for election to judicial office should not:
(a)...

(b) make speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office."

Obviously, the Canon means what is says and the proscribed activity is not permissible. However the question, absent the parentheses, simply queries as to whether a judge violates a Canon by "attending the testimonial dinner of another judge in the same circuit". There is noting in Canon 7 nor any other Canon in the view of the six members of the Committee, prohibiting a judge from attending a testimonial dinner for anyone. Such conduct is governed by our Opinion No. 77-15 which provided, in material part:

"An incumbent judge should not attend a testimonial for an announced political candidate if the testimonial is for the purpose of raising funds for such candidate or is a purely political affair. A judge is not precluded from attending such an appreciation function or a testimonial function for any person whether an announced political candidate or not, if the testimonial or appreciation function is a bona fide appreciation or testimonial function and not sponsored by a political party.

As to whether an incumbent judge should attend a testimonial for another judicial officer seeking re-election, the Committee is of the same view expressed in the proceeding paragraph."

We appreciate your inquiry and trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.


Sincerely yours,


Tyrie A. Boyer, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges

TAB/hmr

Participating members: Judges Boyer, Carlisle, Haverfield, Hewitt, Murphee, Sample, Stephenson and Samuel J. Powers, Attorney