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Opinion

Opinion CJE Opinion No. 99-13

Date: 11/04/1999
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

The following is an archived advisory opinion of the Committee on Judicial Ethics (CJE) from the time period of 1989 through 2014, and the Code of Judicial Conduct that was in effect from October 1, 2003 to December 31, 2015. Archived advisory opinions also include the Code that was in effect through September 30, 2003. The Supreme Judicial Court adopted a new Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct, effective on January 1, 2016. A judge should not rely on any pre- 2016 CJE Advisory Opinion without contacting Supreme Judicial Court Senior Attorney Barbara F. Berenson, counsel to the Committee on Judicial Ethics, at Barbara.Berenson@jud.state.ma.us or 617- 557-1048.

Signing Nomination Papers

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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