State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 93-20
May a part-time judicial officer serve as retained and paid counsel for a political party? If the part-time judicial officer is not paid, but acts as counsel for a political party, does that change the opinion?
The Preamble to the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that part-time judicial officers are not required to comply with certain provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct. CJC Canon 2 and Canon 7 are not listed among those provisions. CJC Canon 2 provides that judicial officers avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all their activities. CJC Canon 7(A)(2) provides that judicial officers shall not identify themselves as members of a political party and that they may not contribute to a political party. CJC Canon 7(A)(2) provides that judicial officers may attend political gatherings when they are campaigning for office to speak on their own behalf or that of another judicial candidate.
A judicial officer may not serve as retained counsel for a political party because of the provisions in CJC Canon 2 and Canon 7(A). Serving as retained counsel for a political party could give the appearance that the judicial officer has identified himself or herself as a member of the political party. Attendance at political gatherings gives the appearance that the judicial officer is engaging in political activities. It does not matter if the judicial officer is paid or not paid because the appearance the judicial officer is engaging in political activities cannot be overcome.
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