POLITICAL ACTIVITY OF JUDGE'S STAFF

Opinion No. 145 (1992)


QUESTION: Should a judge permit members of the judge's office staff to participate in political activities such as publicly supporting a candidate for election, acting as a campaign manager, and fund raising

ANSWER: No. Canon 7(3) provides that a judge shall not authorize the public use of the judge's name to endorse another candidate for any public office. The reasons for that rule are stated in the first paragraph of the answer in Opinion 130. Canon 3B(2) provides that a judge should require the judge's staff, as well other court officials subject to the judge's direction and control, to observe the standards of the Code.

The Committee concludes that such political activity by a member of a judge's office staff would imply, or would be likely to give the appearance of, the judge's support for the candidate.

RELATED QUESTIONS: The inquiring judge also asks whether a judge should permit a staff member to contribute money to a candidate. The Committee concludes that to permit such a contribution would be appropriate only under the circumstances that would allow the judge to contribute, that is, when the judge is satisfied that neither the contribution nor the public record thereof will receive public attention before the election.

The inquiring judge also mentions the uncertain nature of a "judge's direction and control" over a county employee on the judge's office or court staff. The Committee does not reach the issue of how that direction and control should be exercised, because it involves questions of law and because it arises in so many different situations and circumstances that it cannot be addressed in general terms.

Therefore, this opinion is limited to the conclusion that for a judge to permit or to condone such political activity by a staff member would be inconsistent with the ethical standards of the Code of Judicial Conduct.