Opinion No. 73 (1984)*

QUESTION: Does a judge subject to the Code of Judicial Conduct violate the Code by publicly endorsing a candidate for public office?

ANSWER: The Committee is of the opinion that such action would violate the Code of Judicial Conduct. The heading under Canon 7 states that a judge should refrain from political activity inappropriate to his judicial office. Paragraph A of Canon 7 states: "Political Conduct in General. Any candidate for judicial office, including an incumbent judge, and others acting on his behalf, should refrain from all conduct which might tend to arouse reasonable belief that he is using the power or prestige of his judicial position to promote his own candidacy." The essence of Canon 7A is that a judge should not use the prestige of his office to advance his own private interests. It naturally follows that if he cannot use this power or prestige to help his own candidacy, he should not do this for others.

Canon 2B is similar to 7A in that it prohibits a judge from lending the prestige of his office to advance the private interest of others. Further, Canon 1 directs a judge to maintain the independence of the judiciary, and Canon 2A requires a judge to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

It is difficult for a judge to realistically separate the prestige of his office from his personal affairs. Thus, the Committee is of the opinion that the public endorsement of another person's candidacy, of necessity involves the use of the prestige of the judge and the prestige of his office. Additionally, a judge's involvement in another person's political race places the judge in a partisan posture and gives the public cause to question the judge's independence. Thus, the described activity violates the Code of Judicial Conduct. (Adopted by the Committee on Judicial Ethics the 9th day of March, 1984, one member dissenting.)


*Canon 7 was amended effective June 26, 1990.