Opinion No. 168 (1994)

FACTS ASSUMED: A municipal judge, who is also a candidate for a county-level judgeship, currently serves as a faculty member for the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center (TMCEC) and as a Discussion Leader for a course at the National Judicial College (NJC). Both the TMCEC and the NJC provide faculty evaluation forms where judges (whose identities are completely confidential) make comments about the judge.

May the judge use the comments from the faculty evaluation form in his campaign advertising, e.g., comments such as "as asset to the judiciary", "knowledgeable", a commonsense judge"? The comments would be used in the context of "this is what other judges from around the state think about Judge X". No comment would be attributed to any particular judge, since the identity of the judge making the comment is unknown.

Would Judge X be permitted to state "this is what lawyers from around the state say about Judge X" if Judge X can ascertain that the judge making the comment was a lawyer?

*All Canon references are to the Code of Judicial Conduct effective March 1, 1994.

No. Even though the anonymity of the quotes would remove this question from the specific application of Canon 5(3)*, prohibiting a judge from authorizing the public use of his or her name endorsing another candidate for any public office, this type of advertising would nevertheless imply that other judges were endorsing this candidate. Such an implication would violate Canon 2(A) by causing the public to question the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Furthermore, the candidate would be causing the judges who made the evaluations to lend the prestige of judicial office to advance his private interests in violation of Canon 2(B).

Additionally, this type of campaign advertising referring to lawyers is questionable. Text, out of context, is pretext. The quotations in question were made about a faculty/discussion leader. To lift them from that context and apply them in a political campaign would be a misleading use of these speaker evaluations. The judges and/or lawyers who filled out the evaluations may or may not be supportive of the candidate. Canon 2* states that a judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all the judge's activities. The Committee believes that the unauthorized use of these evaluation quotes would violate the trust in which they were given and should not be used.