December 5, 2008
Running For Judicial Office
In a case where the Kansas Supreme Court answered five questions certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the court dealt with the propriety of a candidate for judicial office in responding to a written questionnaire about the candidates views. The court concludes:
...judges and candidates for judicial office may choose to answer issue-related questionnaires (though they are not in any way required to do so) to the extent that the questionnaires call for the candidate's personal views on disputed legal or political issues. Canons 5A(3)(d)(i) and (ii) do prohibit a judicial candidate from answering issue-related questions, however, when giving responses would bind the candidate as a judge to a resolution of a particular case, controversy, or issue within a particular controversy. We stress that in answering any questionnaire, it is advisable--as the code's comments explain--that a candidate who makes a public statement "should emphasize . . . the candidate's duty to uphold the law regardless of his or her personal views" and to remain ever mindful of the impartiality that is essential to the judicial office.
The court further opines that a judicial candidate may not personally solicit signatures for a nominating petition:
The underlying facts in this case illustrate the importance of determining whether a judicial candidate's conduct amounts to a solicitation of public support. When a judicial candidate engages in conduct discussed previously by personally seeking signatures on a nominating petition (rather than having his or her campaign solicit such signatures), such conduct is impermissible in this state, as it amounts to a personal request for the signor's endorsement of the judicial candidate. But when a newspaper or other media source submits questions to a judicial candidate and the candidate responds, and this exchange results in an endorsement, we conclude that the candidate is not actively seeking support or endorsement in violation of the canons. In the first example, the judicial candidate is actively seeking an endorsement. In the second, the request originated from the media source, not the candidate.
Judges and judicial candidates are not permitted under the solicitations clause to personally and actively seek endorsements of their judicial candidacies. Judges and judicial candidates may respond, however, to requests regarding their viewpoints on disputed issues, as long as such responses do not otherwise violate the canons.
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