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Supreme Judicial Court Rules

Code of Judicial Conduct

Supreme Judicial Court Rules Canon 4: A judge shall refrain from political activity inconsistent with the independence,* impartiality,* or integrity* of the judiciary

Effective Date: 01/01/2016
Updates: Adopted October 8, 2015, effective January 1, 2016

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Rule 4.1 Political and campaign activities

(A) 

A judge shall not: 

(1) act as a leader in, or hold an office in, a political organization; 

(2) make speeches on behalf of a political organization or candidate; 

(3) publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for any public office; 

(4) solicit funds for, pay an assessment to, or make a contribution to a political organization or a candidate for public office; or 

(5) attend or purchase tickets for dinners or other events sponsored by a political organization or a candidate for public office or intended to raise money or gather support for or against a political organization or candidate. 

(B) 

A judge may engage in activity in support or on behalf of measures to improve the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice, provided that the judge complies with the other provisions of this Code. 

(C) 

On assuming a judicial office, a judge shall resign any elective public office then held. 

Comment 

[1] While judges have the right to participate as citizens in their communities and not be isolated from the society in which they live, judges must at all times act in a manner that promotes public confidence in their independence, integrity, and impartiality. This Rule imposes restrictions on a judge's political activities because public confidence in the judiciary is eroded if judges are perceived to be subject to political influence or give the impression of favoring the interests of a political organization or candidate. 

[2] The restrictions in Paragraph (A) prohibit a judge from engaging in any public display in support of or opposition to a political candidate, including displaying a bumper sticker on an automobile the judge regularly uses, posting a campaign sign outside the judge's residence, signing nomination papers for a political candidate or ballot issue, carrying a campaign sign, distributing campaign literature, or encouraging people to vote for or give money to a particular candidate or political organization. 

[3] A judge may not avoid the restrictions imposed by this Rule by making contributions or endorsements through a spouse, domestic partner, or other member of the judge's family. Political contributions by the judge's spouse or domestic partner must result from that person's independent choice, and checks by which contributions are made must not include the name of the judge. 

[4] Although members of the judge's family are free to engage in their own political activity, including running for public office, a judge must not endorse, appear to endorse, become involved in, or publicly associate with any family member’s political activity or campaign for public office. 

[5] A judge may register as a member of a political party. A judge may also attend non-partisan events, such as a forum that is open to all candidates and is intended to inform the public

Rule 4.2 Activities of judges who become candidates for nonjudicial office

(A) Upon becoming a candidate in a primary or general election for elective office, a judge shall resign from judicial office. 

(B) Upon becoming a candidate for a nonjudicial appointive office, a judge is not required to resign from judicial office, provided that the judge complies with the other provisions of this Code. 

Comment

[1] The “resign to run” rule set forth in Paragraph (A) ensures that a judge cannot use the judicial office to promote his or her candidacy. When a judge is seeking appointive nonjudicial office, however, the dangers are not sufficient to warrant imposing the “resign to run” rule. 

[2] Upon being appointed to any nonjudicial office except as permitted by Rule 3.4, a judge must resign from judicial office.

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Note: Asterisk (*) indicates that the term is defined in the Terminology section.
 

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