NOTE: Various references in this ethics opinion to portions of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct are no longer accurate due to amendments effective August 1, 2013. Click here to review language added to (which is underlined) and language stricken from (which is indicated by strikethrough) Canons 2, 4, 5, and 7.
October 15, 1992
A judicial candidate may spend campaign funds on sponsorship of a youth sports team so long as the information displayed on the schedule and uniforms of the team do not misrepresent the candidate's identity, qualifications, or present position and includes the necessary identifying information.
References: MCJC 5A, 7B(1)(c); MCLA 169.206, MSA 4.1703(6).
A judicial candidate has inquired whether it is appropriate to expend campaign funds to sponsor a youth soccer team which has a season split into two halves - one in the fall and one in the spring. Team sponsors include individuals, professional corporations and businesses and the name of the team sponsor appears on all schedules and on the uniforms (t-shirts) worn by the team members.
Team sponsorship falls within the definition of a campaign expenditure as it includes a transfer of money for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of the candidate. MCLA 169.206; MSA 4.1703(6).
Further, a judge or judicial candidate may engage in the arts, sports and other social and recreational activities so long as the activities do not detract from the dignity of the office or interfere with the performance of the judge's judicial duties. MCJC 5A. The Committee does not see any reason why a judge's participation in the sponsorship of youth soccer would detract from the dignity of the office or interfere with judicial duties.
Campaign communications must include the name and address of the person or group sponsor paying for the communication. The advertisement (name on uniform) may not be false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading or create a false impression through emphasis of size, color or type style. It must also clearly indicate that it is a campaign advertisement and may not misrepresent the identity, background or any other fact including the possible impression of incumbency for a judicial candidate who is not currently a judge. MCJC 7B(1)(c).
In the present instance, the uniforms and other promotional items for the team would continue to be used throughout the playing season, and beyond the campaign period. If the slogans used and promotional items purchased by the judicial campaign are proper when expended, i.e., do not detract from the dignity of the office or performance of judicial duties, and are not misleading or constitute pledges of conduct in office, they may continue to be used by the team after the campaign period is over.