The Commission has been asked for an Advisory Opinion as to whether it is improper or unethical for a judge to make a personal financial contribution to a candidate for political office in a partisan race.
Rule 4.1(A)(3) provides in part:
Rule 4.1 Political Conduct in General
(A) A judge or a judicial candidate for public election to judicial office shall not:
(1) act or hold himself or herself out as a leader or hold any office in a political organization;
(2) make speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse another candidate for public office; or
(3) solicit funds for or pay an assessment or make a contribution to a political organization, or purchase tickets for political party dinners or other functions, except as authorized in Rule 4.1 (B).
From this it follows that a judge is not prohibited from making a private personal contribution to a candidate for political office in a partisan race so long as it is done in such a way as not to constitute, or appear to be, a public endorsement of the candidate. However, a judge can make no contribution, either in cash or in kind, which might give the appearance of a public endorsement in violation of the prohibition of the Canon.
[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 3.7(A)(1), 3.11, 4.1(A), 4.1(B), 4.2(A), 4.2(B). Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #1, #23, #36, #81, #83, #108, #118, #124, #147, #165, #191, #203.]