Tuesday, August 3, 2010

No Facebook For Judicial Candidates

A candidate for judicial office may not personally host a website or Facebook page seeking donations to the judge's re-election campaign, according to a recent ethics opinion from Florida's Judicial Ethics  Advisory Committee. The committee opined that a judge may be thanked on air for a donation to public broadcasting.

The committee reasoned:

In Fla. JEAC Op. 91-06, the Committee addressed the issue of whether a judge could participate in a fund raising scheme whereby the judge's name and donation would be advertised as a lure for matching funds from other donors.  The Committee concluded that the judge could contribute so long as the judge's name and contribution was not a part of the program to lure matching contributions from other donors.

The current inquiry states that the judge's name will be announced by the public broadcasting station, thanking the judge for the contribution.  The Committee believes that a judge may make a contribution to a station which will thereafter thank the judge on the air by name, provided the judge makes reasonable efforts to communicate to the television station the intent and desire that the station not use the judge's contribution as a lure for contributions by other donors.

The Committee recognizes that, unlike the judge's staff and court officials referenced in the commentary to Canon 5C(3)(b), the public broadcast station is not under the control of the judge and the judge cannot therefore ensure that a request concerning the use of the judge's name will be complied with.  However, the Committee suggests that the judge communicate the request contained in this opinion.

Two members of the Committee believe that the judge should not permit the station to use the title "judge" when announcing the name of the contributor on the air.  The members base this position on the proposition that there is no justification for allowing the judge's title to be mentioned other than to bring inappropriate attention on the judge and the contribution. 

With regard to the second question, Canon 7C(1), provides that a candidate or judge may not personally solicit campaign funds, but may establish committees of  responsible  persons to raise funds and to obtain public statements of support for the judge's campaign.   Websites and Facebook pages promoting the candidacy of a judge or judicial candidates should be established and maintained by these committees, and not by the judge or judicial candidate personally.  Fla. JEAC Op. 2008-11.

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Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink

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