The Judicial Management Council's Communication and Public Information Committee disclosed its key findings and final recommendations regarding its public opinion research. It is the inquiring judges understanding that the research results will be used by the Judicial Management Council to formulate its long-range plan for the judicial branch.
Among its "key findings" from the public opinion research are as follows:.
The Communication and Public Information Committee made several recommendations, which include the following:. The inquiring judge recognizes the importance of educating "non-political" groups on those matters recommended by the Communication and Public Information Committee.
The judge, however, suggests that the most receptive groups are those whose function and purpose revolve around the body politic. In other words, it is the judge's opinion that political party organizations may be the most appropriate groups to lecture and educate on the substance of the recommendations.
In the event our Committee deems it ethically appropriate for a judge to lecture partisan political organizations on these recommendations, the inquiring judge queries whether the educational presentation may take place at his courthouse. However, if our Committee concludes that an educational presentation on the recommendations is ethically proscribed, the inquiring judge ponders whether our opinion would change if the partisan political group established a non-partisan citizen group for the purpose of traveling to the courthouse to hear the presentation.
Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges and candidates for judicial office to refrain from inappropriate political activities. Canon 4 of the Code of Judicial Conduct permits a judge to engage in activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice. Canon 4B provides, "A judge may speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other quasi-judicial activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, subject to the requirements of this Code.
The Commentary to Canon 4B notes that the phrase "subject to the requirements of this Code" is used to "remind judges that the use of permissive language in various Sections of the Code does not relieve a judge from the other requirements of the Code that apply to the specific conduct.
See , Opinion The Committee unanimously held that a judge may appear before "nonpartisan groups and organizations" to discuss the merits of the adoption of a constitutional amendment on the question of merit retention of Supreme Court and appellate court judges. The inquiry related to appearances in public gatherings of all types, except partisan political meetings.
The inquiring judge's initial issue is not one of first impression. Over the past two decades this Committee has addressed similar inquiries. This Committee has once and again asserted the general principle that it improper for judges to appear before partisan groups, even for educational purposes. The inquiry relates to appearances in public gatherings of all types except partisan political meetings.
While acknowledging the general rule, this Committee recognizes and notes the exceptions and the limitations upon them specified in Canon 7A. Those exceptions pertain to candidates seeking appointment to judicial office or a judge seeking other governmental office, as well as the campaign activities of candidates for merit retention and election or re-election. See , Canon 7B 2 , 7C 2 and 7C 3 ; Opinion "[A] judge who is a candidate may attend and may speak [at a partisan political function].
A judge who is not a candidate may not.
Also, a judge who is a candidate can attend a partisan function for the purpose of socializing and making himself known. Accordingly, subject to the exceptions in Canon 7A 1 , which are not applicable to the current inquiry, a judge may not speak to an organized political partisan group at any location. More specifically, [we] don't see why a partisan organization could not attend such a presentation at the courthouse, so long as the presentation was not limited to members of the particular partisan group. We are dedicated to manufacturing shoes according to the highest environmental standards.
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