Opinion 165

The Commission has been asked for an Advisory Opinion with respect to the following questions:

l. May a judge or candidate for a judicial position continue to serve or be elected by the voters or the committee to a county Democratic or Republican committee, if he or she is not an officer on that committee?

2. May a judge or candidate for a judicial position be elected as a delegate to a district, state or national convention?

The issues raised by these questions are controlled by Rule 4.1(A)(1) which provides:

(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;

These issues have previously been dealt with in Opinion Nos. 58 and 108, respectively.

In Opinion No. 58, the Commission concluded that it would not constitute a violation of Canon 4 for a Superior Court Judge’s secretary, who had been a member and secretary of the County Democratic Executive Committee for many years, to serve in that capacity, unless it was undertaken or conducted on behalf of the judge or he undertook to influence or control her activity as a member of said Committee. However, after noting the express prohibition of Canon Rule 4.1(A)(1), the Commission further held: “A judge cannot permit any secretary, or any other employee, to become a member of, or to act for him as a member of, a County Democratic Executive Committee.”

Implicit in this Opinion is the principle that a judge should not serve on a county political committee. In addition, Opinion No. 129 expressly concludes that a judge should not serve as a member of a county executive committee of the Democratic Party for the reason that as such he would be both a leader and office holder in a political organization in violation of Rule 4.1(A). Finally, Opinion No. 118 holds that a judge cannot serve as a member of the State Committee of the Democratic Party. For these reasons, question 1 must be answered in the negative.

Question 2 is controlled by Opinion 108 which expressly requires a negative answer both because, as a delegate, the judge would hold an office in a political organization, and because, even if initially uncommitted, the ultimate result of his participation as a delegate would be commitment to the party nominee in violation of Rule 4.1(A)(1) and (2).

[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, #58, #81, #83, #108, #118, #124, #129, #147, #203, #208.]

Go to Top