State of Washington
Ethics Advisory CommitteeOpinion 94-08
Is it proper for a judicial officer to allow the county bar association to hold its annual picnic at the residence of a judicial officer?
Is it appropriate for the bar association to invite all candidates running for district court judge, superior court clerk and prosecutor to attend and be allowed to give a five minute stump speech on the judicial officer’s property?
Is it appropriate for the bar association to set up at the picnic a golf tee and charge for hitting golf balls into the bay if the proceeds will be donated to charity?
The following facts were presented to the committee:
The county bar association has asked to hold its annual bar picnic at the judicial officer’s waterfront residence. The invitation to the picnic is extended to all members of the bar, their families and guests. There is no admission fee. The judicial officer will not accept any compensation for the use of the premises, however, if family fungible supplies are consumed the bar association intends to offer reimbursement.
The bar association would like to invite all candidates running for district court judge, superior court clerk and prosecutor to attend and be allowed to give a five minute stump speech. Every candidate would be invited. No candidate would be endorsed. The invitation to speak will come from the bar association and not from the judicial officer. The judicial officer’s term of office is not on the ballot at the next election in which these candidates would be running.
The county bar association board of governors has decided to support a local charity and would like to set up a golf tee and charge for hitting balls into the bay. All of the proceeds will be donated to the local charity.
CJC Cannon 2(B) provides that judicial officers should not allow their social relationships to influence their judicial conduct or judgment. It also provides that judicial officers should not lend the prestige of their office to advance the private interests of others and they should not convey, or permit others to convey, the impression they are in a special position to influence the judicial officer.
Canon 5(A) provides that judicial officers may engage in social and other recreational activities, if the activity does not detract from the dignity of the office or interfere with the performance of their judicial duties. Canon 5(B)(2) provides that judicial officers should not solicit funds for a charitable organization and they should not permit the use of the prestige of the office for that purpose. Additionally, they may not be a speaker or guest of honor at an organization’s fundraising event, but they may attend the event.
Canon 7(A)(1)(b) provides in part that judicial officers should not publicly endorse a non-judicial candidate for public office.
The Code of Judicial Conduct does not prohibit a judicial officer from allowing the county bar association to have its annual picnic at the judicial officer’s residence. CJC Canon 5(A) permits judicial officers to engage in social activities that do not detract from the dignity of their office or interfere with the performance of judicial duties.
The candidates for district court judge may be invited to attend and speak on their own behalf because judicial officer’s are permitted under Canon 7(A) to be involved in campaign activities of other judicial candidates. The bar association may invite all the candidates for the positions of superior court clerk and prosecutor to speak on the behalf of their candidacy. As to the superior court clerk and prosecutor candidates the judicial officer should advise the bar association that the invitation must come from the bar association. The invitation to the nonjudicial candidates should identify the site of the picnic by address only to avoid a possible misinterpretation that the judicial officer is endorsing the nonjudicial candidates or engaging in partisan politics.
The judicial officer should, however, advise the bar association that if the picnic is held at the judicial officer’s residence that fundraising for the local charity will not be allowed since that activity would give rise to the appearance that the judicial officer is engaged in fundraising.
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