Signing Nomination Papers

November 4, 1999

CJE Opinion No. 99-13

You have asked for this Committee's advice on whether a judge, by signing a "nomination paper," violates Canon 7 (A) (1) (b) which prohibits judges from publicly endorsing a candidate for public office.

The signer's statement on a nomination paper says in substance that the signatory is qualified to sign and that he or she "make[s] the . . . nomination to be voted for at the primary . . . ." On the same nomination paper, the candidate "accept[s] the nomination." While nomination papers are not high profile documents and frequently play no role in campaigns once a position on the ballot is secured, they are public documents. Signing a nomination paper constitutes a public endorsement of the candidate's placement on the ballot, and thus can be construed as a public endorsement of the candidate.

We decline to draw so fine a line as to distinguish between a public endorsement of a candidate for election and a public endorsement of a candidate for placement on a ballot. As the ABA Commentary on Canon 7 explains, while a judge does not surrender his rights as a citizen, "the fundamental need for impartiality and the appearance of impartiality dictates that limits be placed on the political conduct of judges . . . ." American Bar Assoc., Reporter's Notes to Code of Judicial Conduct (1972). This position is also consistent with Canon 2 (A) which requires a judge to "conduct himself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." Accordingly, we conclude that the signing of nomination papers is precluded by the Canons.

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