SBM - State Bar of Michigan


June 28, 1994


A judicial candidate may attend and distribute personal campaign literature at an event held for a nonjudicial candidate.

A judicial candidate may not afford a particular opportunity for the distribution of a nonjudicial candidate's campaign materials at an event given for the judicial candidate.

References: MCJC 7A(1)(b), 7A(2)(a) and (b); CI-493, CI-778.


May an incumbent judge attend and campaign for re-election at a party given for a partisan county commission candidate, and leave bumper stickers, handouts, and other campaign material on a table provided to facilitate their distribution after the judicial candidate has left the event? May a judicial candidate reciprocate in kind, including the provision of a table for distribution of a partisan candidate's material at a party held for the judicial candidate?

MCJC 7A(2) states:

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

"(a) attend political gatherings;

"(b) speak to such gatherings on the judge's own behalf or on behalf of other judicial candidates;

"(c) contribute to a political party."

It is safe to conclude that attendance and speech at political gatherings would not prohibit the promulgation and distribution of a judicial candidate's campaign material with or without the judicial candidate's immediate presence.

MCJC 7A states:

"(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 nonjudicial candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for non-judicial office."

Providing special facilities such as a card table for a nonjudicial candidate's campaign materials might easily be interpreted as a promotion or endorsement of the candidate's election. Such conduct is impermissible by a judge or judicial candidate.

Candidates for nonjudicial offices may well be attendees at a political affair of a judicial candidate and in the course of the event seek to promote their own candidacies. As long as the judicial candidate offers no particular assistance to any given candidate and the opportunity for such campaigning does not promote any appearance of endorsement by the judicial candidate, there is no ethical violation. See CI-778 (joint and concurring appearances at a debate); CI-493 (use of judges home for non-judicial candidate's campaign party).

Thus, a judicial candidate may attend and campaign at a party held for non-judicial candidate including distribution of campaign literature. A particular opportunity for the distribution of a given non-judicial candidate's campaign materials at a party given for a judicial candidate is impermissible.