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Ethics Opinion

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CI-778

May 15, 1982

SYLLABUS

    It is ethically improper for a candidate for judicial office to offer the candidate's home for a reception for a partisan candidate for public office, since a judicial candidate is precluded from publicly endorsing a candidate for non-judicial office.

    A candidate for judicial office is ethically obligated to use all reasonable efforts to encourage the candidate's spouse and other members of the candidate's family to adhere to the same standards of conduct that apply to the candidate.

    References: MCJC 7A(1)(b), 7B(1)(a).

TEXT

The two questions posed are as follows:

  1. May a judicial candidate offer the candidate's home for a reception for a partisan candidate for public office where no compensation of any kind, including direct or indirect contributions to the judicial candidate's campaign, are to be received by the candidate or the campaign committee?
  2. May the spouse of a judicial candidate offer the candidate's home to be used for a reception for a partisan candidate for public office where no compensation of any kind, including direct or indirect contributions to the judicial candidate's campaign, are to be received by the candidate, the spouse or the judicial campaign committee?

It is not exactly clear if the home of the candidate and that of the spouse are one and the same or whether the two maintain separate residences, however, for reasons hereinafter stated the outcome should be the same.

MCJC 7 is the primary authority upon which the Committee relies in answering the questions posed. MCJC 7A states:

    "A. Political Conduct in General:

      "(1) A judge or a candidate for judicial office should not:

        "(a) hold any office in a political party;

        "(b) make speeches on behalf of a political party or non-judicial candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for nonjudicial office.

      "(2) A judge or candidate for judicial office may:

        "(a) attend political gatherings;

        "(b) speak to such gatherings on his own behalf or on behalf of other judicial candidates;

        "(c) contribute to a political party.

      "(3) A judge should resign his office before he becomes a candidate either in a party primary or in a general election for non-judicial office."

It is our view that the language of MCJC 7A(1)(b) which prohibits a candidate for judicial office from publicly endorsing a candidate for nonjudicial office precludes the candidate from offering the candidate's home for purposes of a reception for a partisan candidate for public office, inasmuch as such an overture is tantamount to a public endorsement of the candidate for nonjudicial office.

On the subject of a judicial candidate's spouse donating the spouse's or the judicial candidate's home for a reception for a partisan candidate, we refer to MCJC 7B(1)(a) which states:

    "B. Campaign Conduct:

      "(1) A candidate, including an incumbent judge, for a judicial office:

        "(a) should maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office, and should encourage members of his family to adhere to the same standards of political conduct that apply to him;" Emphasis added.

This provision obligates the candidate to "encourage" the candidate's spouse to adhere to the same standards of political conduct that apply to the candidate. Accordingly, while ethics rules do not prohibit the spouse from the conduct in question, the candidate is ethically obligated to use all reasonable efforts to "encourage" the spouse not to use the home for a reception for a partisan candidate's election campaign since to do so may create difficulties for the candidate.

 
     

 

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