June 27, 1978
Re: Canon 7B
The Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges acknowledges a query from you which, as we interpret it, essentially asks whether a candidate for judicial office may engage in a debate. We note a distinction between a debate and a joint appearance. A majority of the Committee (one dissent) are firmly of the view that the spirit of the Canons proscribe a formal debate.
A judge and a candidate for judicial office are bound by the same restrictions. Canon 7B(c) provides, in material part:
"A candidate, including an incumbent judge, for a judicial office that is filled either by public election between competing candidates are (sic) on the basis of a merit system election...should not make pledges or promises of conduct in office other that the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of the office; announce his views on disputed legal or political issues; or misrepresent his identity, qualifications, present position, or other fact."
Applying the proscriptions of the above quoted Canon it is difficult to visualize a formal debate. The late Justice Terrell once wrote:
"the man in the moon and the weatherman are about all of the people a judicial candidate can with impunity talk about without attitudinizing himself."
Tyrie A. Boyer, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Participating members: Judges Boyer, Carlisle, Haverfield, O'Connell, Stephenson, Turner and Samuel J. Powers, Attorney