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Ethics Opinion

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NOTE: Effective January 1, 2000, the "180-day Fundraising Period" in MCJC 7B(2)(c) has been replaced by a fund-raising period starting on February 15 of the year of the election.


December 1, 1992


    Excess funds from a judicial election campaign may not be used to finance a postelection investiture celebration.

    Neither a judge nor the judge's campaign committee may accept donations of money or anything of value toward the costs of a postelection investiture celebration.

    References: MCJC 7B(2)(c), 7B(2)(e), 7C; JTC A/O 71; MCL 169.206, MSA 4.1703(6).


A successful candidate for election to judicial office asks whether campaign funds may be used after the date of the election for an investiture ceremony, and, if campaign funds are insufficient to cover the costs of the ceremony, whether donations may be accepted to cover the excess costs.

MCJC 7B(2)(c) and (e) state in part:

    ". . . A [judicial] candidate's committee may solicit funds for his campaign no earlier than 180 days before a primary or nominating convention and may not solicit or accept funds after the date of the general election. A candidate should not use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of himself or members of his family.

    ". . .

    "(e) Any candidate or his committee having funds remaining after payment of all campaign expenses shall either return such funds to the contributors thereof or donate said funds to the Client [Protection] Fund of the State Bar of Michigan, not later than January 1 following the election."

MCJC 7C states in part:

    "Except as provided in 7B(2)(b) and (c):

    ". . .

    "(2) No judge or other person, party, committee, organization, firm, group or entity may accept any contribution of money or of a tangible thing of value, directly or indirectly, to or for a judge's benefit for any purpose whatever, including but not limited to, contribution for a campaign deficit, expenses associated with judicial office, testimonial, honorarium (other than for services, subject to Canon 6) or otherwise."

Taking these provisions together, a candidate may not "solicit or accept" funds after the date of the election. All funds remaining after payment of "campaign" expenses must be either returned to the contributors or donated to the Client Protection Fund. A judge may not "accept any contribution of money or tangible thing of value," even to retire a campaign deficit.

MCJC 7B(2)(e) requires that funds remaining "after payment of all campaign expenses" be returned to the contributors or forwarded to the Client Protection Fund. MCL 169.206; MSA 4.1703(6) indicates a campaign "expenditure" is anything of monetary value spent by the campaign committee to influence the nomination or election of a candidate. Since by definition a victory party has no influence on the nomination or election of a candidate, arguably a victory party is not a campaign expense. Therefore, excess funds from a judicial campaign may not be used for an investiture celebration.

This result is consistent with Judicial Tenure Commission Advisory Opinion 71, which held:

    "Canon 7B(2)(e) permits the payment of campaign expenses arising out of campaign funds as long as such expenses were incurred prior to the election; since a postelection party is not a legitimate campaign expenditure incurred before the election, Canon 7B(2)(e) prohibits the use of campaign funds to finance the function."

Other than campaign expenses, judges are prohibited from accepting any contribution or anything of value by MCJC 7C(2). Therefore, donations toward the costs of an investiture celebration may not be accepted.

The ethics rules do not prevent a successful judicial candidate from hosting a postelection victory party for family, friends and volunteers when paid for out of the successful candidate's own resources.



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