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 5, 1995
A judge may not use jury records for the judge's personal election mailings.
A judge may not personally solicit public statements of support from persons who have served as jurors in the judge's court.
References: MCJC 2C, 5C(7), 7B(2)(a); MCR 2.510.
A judge inquires whether it is ethical to solicit public statements of support from persons who have previously served as jurors in the judge's court. The judge has obtained juror information from juror questionnaires or from other court records, and has a computer record of those who have, over the years, served as jurors. The judge proposes to send the former jurors a letter seeking
permission to use the former juror's name in support of the judge's candidacy.
The judge also asks whether the information compiled is "public information" which must be shared with an election opponent.
MCJC 5C(7) states:
"Information acquired by a judge in a judicial capacity should not be used or disclosed by the judge in financial dealings or for any other purpose not related to judicial duties." Emphasis added.
The Committee would have reservations about a judge using juror information obtained in an official judicial capacity for the judge's own political advantage. Use by a judge in a re-election campaign of information about the identity, addresses or other information about jurors disclosed in their questionnaires or during the jury selection process would violate the provisions of MCJC 5C(7) and would not be permitted.
Information about jurors is information acquired by the judge in the judge's judicial capacity. The judge is prohibited from using or disclosing that information for "any other purpose not related to judicial duties." The judge's re-election efforts are not part of "judicial duties." MCJC 2C also would prohibit the judge from using judicial office, i.e., access to records because of his judicial position, to enhance personal election chances. Therefore the juror information the judge has acquired is not available for the purposes of soliciting campaign support.
The judge's second inquiry is whether juror information compiled by the judge is "public information" which must be shared with any opponent. This calls for a conclusion of law. The Committee does not render advisory opinions with regard to legal questions, however the Committee notes that MCR 2.510 specifies that only judges, clerks, parties to actions and their lawyers are allowed to examine juror questionnaires, and then only under conditions prescribed by local court rule enacted under the guidance of the State Court Administrator's Office. This reaffirms the Committee's conclusion that juror information should not be disclosed or used by a judge or judicial candidate if it was acquired by a judge in a judicial capacity.
Not only would the information be unavailable to the judge's opponent, but it would also be unavailable to the judge for any purpose not related to the judge's judicial responsibilities.
Since the information cannot be used for the proposed purpose, the inquiry concerning the juror letter is moot.