March 28, 1978
Re: Canon 7
The Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges responds to your recent inquiry by which you pose several questions relative to conduct permissible under Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
You first asked whether you may accept an invitation to speak at a Republican Women's Club as sole guest speaker and speak there on your candidacy for re-election. Your query is analogous to the issue involved in this Committee's opinion 77-15. A majority of the Committee is of the view that if the meeting of the Republican Women's Club is not a fund raising affair, but simply a meeting at which you are invited to be the guest speaker, there is no prohibition against your attendance as guest speaker, nor is there any prohibition against you speaking on your candidacy for re-election. Needless to say, your remarks should not be partisan oriented not politically oriented. One member of the Committee dissents and is of the view that our attendance would constitute engaging in partisan politics, proscribed by Canon 7. Two other members emphasize that your attendance and activities must be in support of your own candidacy.
By your second question you asked whether you may attend such meeting wherein other Republican candidates for local offices are invited, but no prospective opponents are afforded the opportunity to speak or attend. You specifically asked whether such activity offends Canon 7A(1)(b). That issue, too, is analogous to issues touched upon in our opinion 77-15. A majority of the committee are of the view, subject to the caveats mentioned with reference to your first question, that the anticipated activity is not proscribed by the Canons. One member of the Committee is of the view that such activity constitutes engaging in partisan politics and is proscribed by Canon 7.
You next inquire whether Canon 7B(1)(c) prohibits you from making statements in a campaign speech:
a. That you could personally throw the switch on anyone convicted of a capital crime;
b. That you personally feel the possession of marijuana should be decriminalized, and
c. Regarding the respective personalities of you and you opponents.
As a preamble to our response, the Committee calls to your attention Canon 7B(1)(a) which provides in material part that a "candidate, including an incumbent Judge, for a judicial office that is filled either by public election between competing candidates or on the basis of merit system election***should maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office***".
A majority of the Committee are of the view that statements relative
to "throwing the switch on anyone convicted of a capital crime"
and to decriminalization of the possession of marijuana constitutes an announcement
of views on disputed legal or political issues and is therefore proscribed
by Canon 7B(1)(c). Those members who are of the view that such statements
are not proscribed by the Canon emphasize that any such statements are border
line and should be made in a dignified manner.
A majority of the Committee are of the view that statements relative to personalities are proscribed and should be avoided
We appreciate your inquiry and hope that our opinion may be of benefit for your future guidance.
Tyrie A. Boyer, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Participating members: Judges Boyer, Carlisle, Hewitt, Stephenson, Turner and Samuel J. Powers, Attorney