Opinion No. 169 (1994)

QUESTION: Would a candidate for judicial office violate the Canons of Judicial Conduct by stating that his or her opponent had been "removed" as a District Judge when, in fact, the opponent had not been removed but had been defeated for reelection.?

Yes. The word "removed" could refer to the voters having previously voted for the candidate's opponent and therefore the candidate has lost his or her bench. However, Canon 5(2)(ii)* states that a judge or judicial candidate shall not "knowingly misrepresent the identity, qualifications, present position or other fact concerning the candidate or an opponent;".

The term "removed" suggests that a statutory or administrative process was used to expel a judge for misconduct or other matters that would make him or her unfit to serve. Although the voters are, in effect, "removing" an office holder by voting for the non-incumbent, this is a process of the electorate and does not state a reason for defeat. To suggest that a defeated judge was "removed" from office would be misleading and violate Canon 5(2)(ii).

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

Additionally, judges and judicial candidates should engage in the highest form of campaigning to reflect their understanding of the dignity and important public trust of the office they are seeking. To suggest, by the use of words that could be misleading or taken out of context, that a defeated judge was removed for misconduct defeats not only the Canon, but also the spirit of the office.