Frequently Asked Questions
I. COMPLYING WITH CANON 4
(1) Canon 4, Washington State Code of Judicial Conduct (CJC).
(2) Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 42.52.180.
(3) Revised Code of Washington (RCW) chap. 42.17.
The Code of Judicial Conduct governs both judges and candidates for judicial office. (See Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct I(B) and RPC 8.2(c).)
The Code of Judicial Conduct Terminology section defines a “judicial candidate” as: a person seeking selection for or retention into judicial office by election or appointment. A person becomes a candidate for judicial office as soon as he or she makes a public announcement of candidacy, declares or files as a candidate with the election authority, or authorizes solicitation or acceptance of contributions or support. See Preamble to the Code of Judicial Conduct and Canon 4. (Contact the Public Disclosure Commission for information regarding the filing necessary to establish candidacy.)
The Ethics Advisory Committee can give advisory opinions only to judges (GR 10). Requests for opinions should be addressed to: Ethics Advisory Committee, c/o Administrative Office of the Courts, Temple of Justice, PO Box 41174, Olympia, WA 98504-1174. The telephone number is (360) 357-2129. Attorney candidates for judicial office should direct their inquiries to: Washington State Bar Association, Lawyer Assistance Department, 2001 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121. The telephone number is (206) 727-8284 or (800) 945-WSBA, ext. 8284.
II. APPEARING PUBLICLY
Yes. A judge may attend political gatherings during a judicial campaign. A judge or judicial candidate shall not attend political gatherings except as authorized by CJC 4.2(B). CJC 4.2(B) allows judges and judicial candidates to attend political gatherings, including functions sponsored by political organizations. These functions may include: candidate forums, party precinct meetings, county or state party meetings or conventions, community group meetings and county fairs. Also see CJC 4.2 Comment .
III. PUBLIC ENDORSEMENTS
A judge or judicial candidate may seek, accept or use endorsements from any person or organization. CJC 4.2(B)(3).
Yes. CJC 4.1(A)(2) and (3) provide that judges may speak at a function sponsored by a political organization on their behalf or that of another judicial candidate. CJC 4.2 Comment  provides that in endorsing or opposing another judicial candidate, the judge or judicial candidate must abide by the same rules governing campaign conduct and speeches as apply to the judge or judicial candidate.
Yes. A retiring judge may endorse a candidate running for judicial office. CJC 4.1(A)(2) and (3) permit a judge who has announced impending retirement to publicly endorse a judicial candidate. See Opinion 88-6.
CJC 4.1(A)(12) prohibits a judge or judicial candidate from making statements in connection with cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court or from making pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of judicial office. Also see CJC 4.1 Comments  – .
The response to this question depends on the questions which are asked in the questionnaire. CJC 4.2(A)(1) provides that judges and judicial candidates shall act in a manner consistent with the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary. Canon 4 provides that judges and judicial candidates shall not make pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of judicial office. Ultimately, a candidate must evaluate each question he or she wishes to answer and decide whether it complies with the Code of Judicial Conduct. See Opinion 92-16 and CJC 1.2.
V. CAMPAIGN STATEMENTS
Yes. A candidate may make truthful statements about the qualifications of his or her opponent. CJC 4.1(A)(10) – (12).
Yes. CJC 4.1(A)(10) and (11) provide a candidate may respond to personal attacks on his or her record so long as the responses are truthful. Also see CJC 4.1 Comment .
VI. CAMPAIGN MATERIAL
Yes. It is proper under CJC 4.1(A)(10) for a judge to be pictured in campaign literature in a judicial robe. See Opinion 88-3 and CJC 4.1 Comment .
VII. CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE
The lawyer may practice before the judge provided there is a full disclosure of the campaign relationship and the lawyers and parties, independent of the judge’s participation, all agree the campaign relationship is immaterial. See Opinion 88-7.
Application III of the Code of Judicial Conduct sets forth the provisions with which pro tempore judges are required to comply. A pro tempore judge is defined as a judicial officer who sits on fewer than 12 cases or dockets a year. CJC Terminology “Pro tempore judges.” A pro tempore judge is required to comply while he or she is serving as a pro tempore judge. A full time or judge pro tempore may be listed on letterhead, which will be used to solicit support for a judicial candidate because judges are permitted to support judicial candidates. CJC 4.1(A)(3). But neither may be listed on letterhead which will be used to solicit contributions for a judicial candidate. CJC (A)(4). See Opinion 93-21.
A candidate may establish a campaign as soon as he or she decides to seek election to judicial office. “Judicial candidate” is defined in CJC Terminology. The candidate may personally contact individuals, including attorneys, to ask if they would be willing to serve on a campaign committee.
Yes, members of the candidate’s family may both serve on the campaign committee and make contributions to the campaign. CJD 4.1(A) and 4.4. CJC 4.4(B)(1) requires that only reasonable contributions be accepted and in no event not to exceed the amount provided by law. See ESSB 5034 (Chapter 445, Laws of 2005).
Yes, CJC 4.4(B)(2) refers to restrictions on solicitations of funds not to the receipt of them. A candidate may receive contributions earlier than 120 days before filing is permitted and may accept contributions after the election only to the extent permitted by law.
VIII. SOLICITING CONTRIBUTIONS
CJC 4.1(A)(7) provides that a judge or candidate may not personally solicit or accept funds other than through a campaign committee except for contributions from members of the judge’s family or people who have agreed to serve on the campaign committee. See CJC 4.1 Comment .
CJC 4.4(B)(1) provides that judges or candidates for a judicial office may establish committees to solicit and accept reasonable campaign contributions as provided by law. See Opinion 89-9.
CJC 4.4(B)(2) provides for the solicitation of contributions no earlier than 120 days before the date when filing for that office is first permitted and may accept contributions after the election only to the extent permitted by law.
The Code of Judicial Conduct does not place any express monetary limitations on the amount an individual may contribute or who may make contributions to a judicial candidate, but limitations have been imposed on judicial offices. See Public Disclosure Commission Web site: www.pdc.wa.gov/filers.
IX. CAMPAIGN SPENDING
CJC 4.1(A)(8) provides “A judge or judicial candidate shall not use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of the judge, the candidate, or others except as permitted by law.” Therefore, judicial candidates may spend campaign money on bona fide campaign expenses. Some examples are literature, travel, office facilities, advertising, staff, and telephones.
The Code of Judicial Conduct does not address this issue. However, some alternatives that judicial candidates have used are to keep the funds, return the funds to contributors, or to donate them to a charity or another judicial candidate. See RCW 42.17.095 and .125 (effective until 1/1/2012) recodified as RCW 42.17A.430 and 42.17A.445.
CJC 4.1(A)(8) provides that a judge or judicial candidate shall not use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of the judge, the candidate, or others except as permitted by law. Candidates shall comply with all laws requiring public disclosure of campaign finance. RCW 42.17.125 (effective until 1/1/2012) recodified as RCW 42.17A.430 and 42.17A.445, permits the repayment of loans made to the campaign. Therefore, contributions may be used to retire the campaign debt to a member of the judicial officer’s family. See Opinion 96-1.
X. CANDIDATE CONTRIBUTIONS
Yes, a candidate may make contributions to his or her campaign. There is no limit on the amount which may be contributed but there is a limitation on the amount of repayment of loans to the campaign. CJC 4.4(B)(3) provides that candidates shall comply with all laws requiring public disclosure and divesture of campaign finances and to file with the Public Disclosure Commission all reports required by law. RCW 42.17.125 permits the repayment of loans made to the campaign. Superior Court candidates see WAC 390-17.303 for eligibility to receive contributions.
XI. FUND RAISING
CJC 4.1(A)(7) addresses the fund raising conduct for judicial candidates. Opinion 90-13 addresses each of the situations above. Also see Opinion 95-24.
XII. KNOWING YOUR SUPPORTERS
CJC 4.4(B)(3) provides that candidates shall comply with all laws requiring public disclosure of campaign finances, which may require knowledge of campaign contributions. The Public Disclosure Commission (RCW 42.17.370, effective until 1/1/2012, recodified as RCW 42.17A.110) is empowered to require candidates to sign and file campaign disclosure forms which may include identifying the names of contributors.
Opinion 90-9 states that it is not generally proper for a judge or judicial candidate to send a personal thank you letter for contributions made to the campaign. Members of the candidate’s campaign committee may thank contributors. Because of CJC 4.1(A)(7) there are exceptions to this rule. A judge may send a personal thank you letter to members of the judge’s family or individuals who have agreed to serve on the campaign committee. Also see Opinion 04-06.
Not necessarily. The judge should examine each situation to determine whether the judge should recuse in a particular case because one of the attorneys or parties contributed to the judges’ campaign or whether the contribution should be disclosed to the attorneys and parties. See CJC 2.11.
XIII. RECEIPT OF CONTRIBUTION
When an unsolicited contribution is delivered directly to the candidate, the candidate should promptly deliver it to the appropriate campaign official. CJC 4.4.
XIV. DISCIPLINARY ACTION UNDER CANON 4
Violations of Canon 4 by judicial officers should be reported to the Commission on Judicial Conduct, PO Box 1817, Olympia, WA 98507-1817. The telephone number is (360) 753-4585, Web site: cjc.state.wa.us. A Canon 4 violation by an attorney candidate should be reported to the Washington State Bar Association, Office of Disciplinary Counsel, 2001 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121. The telephone number is (206) 727-8207, Web site: wsba.org.
XV. NONJUDICIAL CAMPAIGNS
No. CJC 4.1(A)(2) and (3) provide that a judge or candidate for election to judicial office shall not make speeches on behalf of a political organization or nonjudicial candidate or publicly endorse a nonjudicial candidate for office except for participation in a precinct caucus limited to selection of delegates to a nominating convention for President. See Opinion 86-11.
The Code of Judicial Conduct does not regulate the conduct of spouses of judges or judicial candidates. See CJC 4.1 Comment .
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