State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 09-03
May a judicial officer attend an entire campaign event for a non-judicial candidate if the judicial officer does not make a contribution? If the answer is no, may the judicial officer leave the event before the scheduled time to ask for contributions?
The judicial officer is a part-time municipal court judge, who has been invited by a mayoral candidate in the city where he lives, which is not the town in which he sits as a judge, to attend a campaign event. There is no charge for any attendee of the event. During the event, the candidate will explain positions on many political subjects, answer questions and then make a request for contributions at the end of the presentation.
The judicial officer wants to attend the event and learn more about the candidate. The candidate and the campaign committee have verified that the event is open to attendees of any political party and is sponsored by the campaign committee, not a political party. The campaign committee has agreed not to allow anyone at the event to refer to the judge as judge. The judge would not be speaking at the event but might ask questions about political issues in order to learn more about the candidate's positions.
The Code of Judicial Conduct exempts part-time judges from complying with some provisions in the Code. Part-time judges are required to comply with the provisions in CJC Canon 7(A). That section restricts political conduct of judicial officers to supporting or contributing money to judicial candidates and to political activities on behalf of measures to improve the law, the legal system and the administration of justice.
A judicial officer may not attend a campaign event for a non-judicial candidate as described above. The CJC Canon 7(A) restricts permissible political activities to law related activities or to those held for judicial candidates. Attendance at a campaign event for a non-judicial candidate at which that candidate intends to address non-law related political issues and request campaign contributions falls within the proscribed activities outlined in Canon 7(A).
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