Monday, March 5, 2012
A recent opinion from the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee:
May a judicial candidate’s spouse, with the candidate’s knowledge, attend a political party function wearing the candidate’s campaign badge?
ANSWER: No. The candidate must encourage the spouse not to campaign at the event, which would include wearing a campaign badge or otherwise being identified as the candidate’s spouse.
A judicial candidate’s spouse contemplates attending a political party function wearing the candidate’s campaign badge. The candidate acknowledges that if this constitutes campaigning, it would not be permissible.
This issue has been resolved by the Supreme Court in the reprimand issued in In Re Angel, 867 So. 2d 379 (Fla. 2004), and by this Committee’s opinion in Fla. JEAC Op. 10-16.
In Angel, the judge’s wife, with his knowledge, attended and participated on his behalf at a “Meet the Candidates Night.” The judge’s wife assumed that the opponent was invited, but the opponent was not invited and was not present. The Judicial Qualifications Commission and the Supreme Court found that this activity violated the spirit and the letter of Section 105.071, Florida Statutes, and Canon 7 of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct. This activity, along with other transgressions, supported a public reprimand.
This Committee relied upon Angel in Fla. JEAC Op. 10-16 when we opined that although a judicial candidate’s spouse can attend a political party function, the spouse may not campaign in any way for the judicial candidate’s election. Wearing a candidate’s campaign badge at a political party function is clearly campaigning on the candidate’s behalf.
Both this Committee and the Supreme Court have recognized that a judicial candidate’s spouse has autonomy in the political arena and the spouse is free to engage in political activities which the spouse deems appropriate. However, a judicial candidate must adhere to Canon 7A(3)(b), which requires a candidate for judicial office to encourage members of the candidate’s family to adhere to the same standard of political conduct in support of the candidate which apply to the candidate.
For the reasons set forth above, the spouse may attend the political party function, but the candidate must encourage the spouse not to campaign at the event, which would include wearing a campaign badge or otherwise being identified as the candidate’s spouse.