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NOTE: Effective January 1, 2000, the "180-day Fundraising Period" in MCJC 7B(2)(c) has been replaced by a fund-raising period starting on February 15 of the year of the election.


May 17, 1994


    A campaign committee for a judicial candidate is not limited as to the number of fundraising events it schedules on behalf of the candidate. A campaign committee is limited in its solicitation of funds from lawyers to a maximum of $100.00 during the campaign.

    A campaign committee is not per se prohibited from accepting contributions from persons or entities who have held fund raising events to assist the candidate. A campaign committee may not accept contributions arising from such independent events in circumvention of the restrictions imposed on the campaign committee for fund raising.

    References: MCJC 7B(2)(c); MRPC 8.4(e); JI-1, JI-11, JI-17, JI-74; CI-352, CI-509.


An opinion has been requested of the Committee regarding the number of fundraisers which may be scheduled on behalf of a candidate, whether committee members may advise lawyers of additional fundraisers scheduled, whether a private individual or lawyer, not a member of the campaign committee, may hold a fundraiser and solicit contributions from lawyers and/or from nonlawyers and whether the private individual may solicit contributions from lawyers who have been solicited and have contributed to the candidate's prior fundraisers.

The Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct does not limit the number of fundraisers planned and conducted by a campaign committee as to number or size.

A campaign committee member may notify lawyers that a fundraiser is planned, however, the committee member is limited by MCJC 7B(2)(c) which limits solicitation of lawyers to a maximum contribution of $100 during the period from 180 days prior to the primary through election day. This position has been consistently maintained by prior opinions of the Committee. CI-352, CI-509, and JI-1. Thus, prior to soliciting lawyers for second or subsequent fundraisers during a campaign, the committee members should review their records so as to not solicit funds from lawyers in excess of $100.

If lawyers learn of additional fundraisers as a result of announcements via the media and make unsolicited contributions over the $100 limit, these unsolicited contributions may be accepted by the committee. JI-17, JI-74; CI-509.

The balance of the inquiry questions the propriety of private individuals not members of the campaign committee, including lawyers, hosting fundraisers on behalf of a judicial candidate and whether such individuals were limited in solicitations of lawyer contributors.

In JI-11, the Committee concluded that the inclusion of the name of a judicial candidate in a third party's communication with nonjudicial candidates does not constitute a public endorsement of the nonjudicial candidate by the judge and does not in itself constitute improper conduct by the judge, reasoning:

    "Since the communication involved is done by someone other than the judge and has not been solicited by the judge, the question is whether a judicial candidate is required to attempt to have it retracted. The Committee believes MCJC 7 does not require the judge to act."

Fund raising by an independent group or individual on behalf of a judicial candidate raises the same issues. If the additional fund raising event is in fact "independent" of the campaign committee, the candidate is not responsible for the event. Whether the campaign committee could properly accept any funds from the "independent event" would be considered under the same election laws as apply to the propriety of accepting any other contribution. If the "independent event" is in fact orchestrated by the candidate as a means of avoiding the solicitation limitations or other ethical or legal requirements, rules applicable to the campaign committee directly would also govern the "independent event." We also note that MRPC 8.4(e) prohibits a lawyer from knowingly assisting a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct or other law, thus a lawyer who knowingly participates in an "independent event" in an attempt to circumvent restrictions on judicial campaign fund raising could be guilty of an ethics violation. Problems may be avoided by the judicial candidate directing the sponsors of any independent event to make the necessary arrangements through the candidate's campaign committee.



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