Tuesday, December 9, 2008
A new opinion from the Oklahoma Judicial Ethics Advisory Panel:
Question(s): May an attorney who intends to become a candidate for judicial office at the next election cycle (2010) establish a "political action committee" as opposed to a "candidate committee" at this time, in excess of one year before the filing period, for the purpose of soliciting support and campaign contributions?
The party requesting an advisory opinion cites Canon 5 of the Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct which provides that "a candidate may establish a committee of responsible persons to perform these acts on the candidate’s behalf no earlier than 90 days before an election filing period. He then points out that the Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s rules recognizes a distinction between a "candidate committee" and a "Political Action Committee."
Discussion: Canon 1: A judge should uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
Canon 2: A judge should avoid impropriety and appearance of impropriety in all of the judge’s activities.
We first note that a candidate for judicial office is bound by the Canons of Judicial Ethics.
We have repeatedly stated in our advisory opinions that a judge or candidate for judicial office should always conduct his or herself in such a manner as will instill public confidence in the integrity not only of the person, but the judicial system.
Therefore we hold that it is not permissible to establish a committee by a different name, but for the same purposes and thereby circumvent the specific time frame the Canons impose on such activities cannot do anything but further the unfortunate public perception that the legal profession too often resorts to such subterfuges and could not but raise questions as to integrity and appearance of impropriety.