Opinion No. 234 (1998)

QUESTION: May a court administrator for a judge campaign for political candidates and support referendum issues during non-court hours, when she is away from the courthouse and on her own personal time?

ANSWER: Yes. Canon 5's prohibition of "inappropriate political activity" applies only to judges and judicial candidates, not to court personnel. Canon 6 does not list court administrators or staff as persons subject to the Code. Although an earlier version of Canon 3C(2) required court staff to observe "the standards of this Code," since March 1994 Canon 3C(2) has required judges, as part of their administrative responsibilities, to ensure only that members of their staff observe "the standards of fidelity and diligence" that judges must observe. Canon 3 also instructs judges to ensure that staff and court officials observe other code provisions not at issue in this opinion. See Canon 3B(4), 3B(6), 3B(8), and 3B(10).

The code does not prohibit political activities by the administrator, provided that she engages in them away from the courthouse, during non-court hours, on her own time, without giving the impression that she speaks. for the judge. The administrator must remember that the judge for whom she works cannot lend the prestige of his office to advance the political interests of others [Canon 2B], indicate his opinions on issues likely to come before his court [Canon 5(l)], or endorse candidates for public office [Canon 5(3)). The administrator must scrupulously avoid suggesting in any way that the judge personally approves of the candidates she endorses or the positions she takes on the issues. She must also schedule her political activities so that they do not interfere with her official duties. Canon 4A(2).