SOME JUDICIAL CANDIDATES ARE APPARENTLY VIOLATING THE JUDICIAL CODE OF CONDUCT IN THIS ELECTION.

By LawReader Senior Editor Stan Billingsley May 15, 2014

We are troubled by the campaign ads of several candidates for Judicial offices during the current
election cycle. If a candidate violates the Code of Judicial Conduct, then it is legitimate to question
their ability to serve as a fair and impartial judge.

One candidate has advertised that “he is a Democrat and both of his opponents are Republicans.”
Judicial races are non-partisan and if a candidate identifies himself or his opponents as
Democrats or Republicans, then he/she violates the requirement that judicial candidate be
“independent”. This introduction of partisanship into a non-partisan judicial race is questionable
Conduct and may violate Canon 5 of the Judicial Code of Conduct.

We note that Judicial races are listed on the ballot as non-partisan races and are not listed under
the heading of any political party. Identifying oneself as a member of a political party implies
he/she will follow the policies of their political party in their rulings, and that their opponents will
follow the policies of their political party.

Canon 1 requires a judicial candidate to be independent.

In another judicial race two candidates advertise that they are members of the NRA and support the
2nd. Amendment which is code for opposing any legislaltion regulation of guns.

Canon 5 forbids a judicial candidate from “appeal(ing) to public social bias in order to gain a
political advantage.”

his use of veiled suggestions that the judicial candidate is biased in favor of the NRA and it’s political views is very troubling. A
candidate for a judicial office cannot identify themselves with controversial political issues which
appear to commit them in future rulings on the issue.

JUDICIAL CODE OF CONDUCT – CANON 1

CANON 1: A JUDGE SHALL UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY

An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society. A judge should
actively participate in establishing, maintaining and enforcing high standards of conduct, and shall
personally observe those standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary will be
preserved. The provisions of this Code are to be construed and applied to further that objective.

CANON 5

CANON 5: A JUDGE OR JUDICIAL CANDIDATE SHALL REFRAIN FROM NAPPROPRIATE POLITICAL ACTIVITY

A. Political Conduct in General.
(1) A judge or a candidate for election to judicial office shall not:
(a) act as a leader or hold any office in a political organization;
(b) make speeches for or against a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office;
(c) solicit funds for or pay an assessment or make a contribution to a political organization or candidate, except as authorized in subsection A(2);

Commentary
A judge or candidate for judicial office shall encourage members of his or her family to adhere to the same standards of political conduct in support of the candidate that apply to the candidate. Family members are free to participate in other political activity.
B. Campaign Conduct.
(1) A judge or candidate for election to judicial office:
(a) shall maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office, and shall encourage members of the candidate’s family to adhere to the same standards of political conduct;
(b) shall prohibit public officials or employees subject to the candidate’s direction and control from doing for the candidate what the candidate is prohibited from doing under this Canon; and except to the extent authorized under subsection B(2), the candidate should not allow any other person to do for the candidate what the candidate is prohibited from doing under this Canon;
(c) A judge or candidate for election to judicial office shall not intentionally or recklessly make a statement that a reasonable person would perceive as committing the judge or candidate to rule a certain way on a case, controversy, or issue that is likely to come before the court; and shall not misrepresent any candidate’s identity, qualifications, present position, or other facts.
Commentary
Section 5B(i)(c) prohibits a candidate for judicial office from making statements that appear to commit the candidate regarding cases, controversies or issues likely to come before the court, and prohibits campaigning on issues in a manner designed solely to appeal to public social bias in order to gain a political advantage. As a corollary, a candidate should emphasize in any public statement the candidate’s duty to uphold the law regardless of his or her personal views. See also Section 3(B)(9), the general rule on public comment by judges. Section 5B(1)(c) does not prohibit a candidate from making pledges or promises respecting improvements in court administration. Nor does this section prohibit an incumbent judge from making private statements to other judges or court personnel in the performance of judicial duties. (d) shall file the report referred to in Canon 4H(2).

Comments

  1. Stan
    11:52 am on May 15th, 2014

    In Cary V. Wolnitzek the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled:

    “If they accept the job of being a judge, they waive their personal beliefs on political issues and accept the job requirement of impartiality and fidelity to the law.

    If they elect to be a partisan, and to announce their views on issues that are likely to come before them on the bench, and if they thereby disqualify themselves from sitting on cases in which they have already taken a position, then they cannot perform their duties as a judge and should be recused. If they have many personal pronouncements on issues then they must frequently be removed (or should ethically remove themselves) and they shift their work load to others.
    We would suggest that a judge or candidate for judge agrees to waive their right to take advance positions on issues that will come before them. If they wish to take such positions, they should run for the legislature. We believe this waiver justifies the enforcement and upholding of the “issues” Canon of the Judicial Conduct Code.”

Leave a Comment:

*