POLITICAL ADVERTISING:
ENDORSEMENTS, STAND ON ABORTION

Opinion No. 184 (1995)


QUESTION 1: May a judicial candidate ethically list in political advertising the endorsement of special interests groups with an obvious political agenda, such as Texans Against Drunk Driving, Texans for Tort Reform, Texas Prosecutors Association, Texas Peace Officers Association, Texans for Law Enforcement, Pro-Life Texans, or Texans for Choice?

ANSWER: Yes, a judicial candidate may list endorsing groups.
Canon 5 speaks to political activity and states:

1. A judge or judicial candidate shall not make statements that indicate an opinion on any issue that may be subject to judicial interpretation by the office which is being sought or held.

2. A judge or judicial candidate shall not make pledges or promises of conduct in office other than faithful and impartial performance of judicial duties.

It is obvious that the endorsing organizations have made strong political statements. The judge or candidate by listing the organizations has made no statement indicating an opinion on an area subject to judicial interpretation. The only statement the candidate is making is that these groups endorse him/her.

QUESTION 2: May a judicial candidate advertise or state a position on abortion, i.e. "I am the pro-choice/pro-life candidate"?

ANSWER: No, a judicial candidate may not make a statement on abortion.

A judge or candidate may not make a statement declaring that he/she is pro-life or pro-choice, based on Canon 5 paraphrased above. The judge or candidate is clearly making a statement that indicates an opinion on an issue possibly subject to judicial interpretation. Further, there is a strong implication of a promise of particular conduct in office other that the faithful performance of official duties.