Opinion 58

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has been asked for an advisory opinion as to whether it constitutes a violation of Canon 4 for a Judge of the Superior Court to permit his secretary, who has been a member and secretary of the County Democratic Executive Committee for many years, to serve in that capacity. Rule 4.1(A) 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; 

Rule 4.2(A)(1) further provides as

B. Campaign Conduct.

(A) Judicial candidates:

(1) shall prohibit officials or employees subject to their direction or control from doing for them what they are prohibited from doing under this  Canon, and shall not allow any other person to do for them what they are prohibited from doing under this Canon; 

In view of this express prohibition, it is clear that a judge cannot permit any secretary, or any other employee, to become for him a member of, or to act for him as a member of, a County Democratic Executive Committee. On the other hand, it is doubtful that he could, or should, deny an employee the right to the free exercise of her own political rights so long as they are not undertaken or conducted on his behalf.

For that reason, the Commission has concluded that service by the secretary of a judge on a County Democratic Executive Committee would not constitute a violation of Canon 4, 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.

At the same time, the judge must be mindful of the admonition of Canon 1 that a judge shall not only avoid impropriety but the appearance of impropriety and he must exercise great care to avoid any appearance of improper influence or impropriety.

[Pertinent Code of Judicial Conduct provisions: Rules 1.2(B), 4.1, 4.2. Cross reference to other relevant opinions for review: #36, #108, #123, #129, #163, #165]

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