ENDORSEMENT OF POLITICAL CANDIDATES

Opinion No. 130 (1989)*


QUESTION: A judge brings to the attention of this Committee the Texas Attorney General's March 10, 1989 Opinion LO-89-21 which states that Canons 2 and 7 do not prohibit a judge from endorsing a candidate, and the judge submits this questions: May a judge endorse a candidate for public office?

ANSWER: No. The Judicial Ethics Committee concludes again that a judge's public endorsement of a candidate for public office violates the Code of Judicial Conduct because such an endorsement tends to diminish public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and may give the appearance of involvement in partisan interests and of judicial concern about public clamor or criticism, and because such an endorsement of necessity involves the use of the prestige of the judge and the prestige of his office. See Canons 1, 2A, 2B, and 3A(1), and Judicial Ethics Committee Opinions No. 73, 92, and 100.

The Committee has considered the Attorney General's Opinion and the provisions of the amended Code adopted in 1987, and the Committee is not persuaded by the Attorney General's conclusion that, in the Canon 2B provision that a judge should not lend the prestige of office to advance the private interests of others, the words "private interests" do not include candidacy.

The committee reaffirms its Opinion No. 73, and, by a unanimous vote, respectfully recommends that the Supreme Court of Texas amend Canon 7 of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct by adding to Canon 7 the following provisions from proposed Canon 5A of the May 1, 1989 Draft Revisions to the American Bar Association Code of Judicial Conduct:

"A judge or a candidate for election or appointment to judicial office shall not make speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office." [Proposed ABA Canon 5A(1)(b)]

"A judge holding an office filled by public election between competing candidates, or a candidate for such office, may, only insofar as permitted by law, attend political gatherings, speak to such gatherings on his or her own behalf when a candidate for election, identify himself or herself as a member of a political party, and contribute to a political party or organization." [Proposed ABA Canon 5A(3)]


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*Canon 7 was amended effective June 26, 1990.