Ky. Circuit Judge Cited for sending e-mails on his private account, and for purchasing a campaign item online. Judicial Conduct Commission Charges Judge Dan Ballou with misconduct.

 

What are limits of Judges Right to Free Speech? 

Circuit Court judge Daniel Ballou has been charged with two counts of judicial misconduct for contributing money to U.S. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign and for sending campaign material touting U.S. Sen. Rand Paul to other judges via e-mail. Judge Ballou represents McCreary and Whitley counties.

Ballou of Williamsburg was charged by the Judicial Conduct Commission in November for contributing $562 to McCain’s campaign in 2008. Ballou also sent out an e-mail in January 2010 about Rand Paul’s stance on the 2nd Amendment. The e-mail was sent to dozens of people.

The Judicial Code of Conduct  mandate that a sitting judge “shall refrain from inappropriate political activity.”  The prohibition against political activity includes soliciting funds or making contributions to a political organization or candidate. The Conduct Code prohibit a judge from publicly endorsing or opposing a candidate for public office.

Judge Ballou denied the allegation.

 He explained in pleadings that the “campaign donation” to presidential candidate John McCain occurred while Ballou was deployed on military duty in Iraq. He said he purchased several items that included McCain’s likeness via the Internet. Apparently that online purchase has been alleged to be a campaign contribution.  

In prior cases the JCC has reviewed the purchase of tickets for campaign events and held that if the fee was excessive and if it exceeded the value of the meal provided at the event, that the excess value of the ticket was a “contribution”. Contributions to other candidates is forbidden by the Code.

The Conduct Code permits Judges to attend political rallies for other candidates.  Judges are also allowed to speak to such groups, and may identify their party affiliation “if asked”.

Ballou said the e-mail regarding Paul’s 2nd Amendment stance was not intended as an endorsement or to take a political position.

Ballou said in documents that he had “forwarded an e-mail from his personal computer to a limited number of fellow judges, none of whom could be reasonably expected to be subject to improper political persuasion or influence.”

Ballou sent the e-mail from his personal e-mail account to judges and dozens of other people. The message was identified in the heading of the email:  “FYI Rand Paul and the 2nd amendment.”

Judge Ballou filed a defense in which he says he has a First Amendment right to express his opinion.

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