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November 19, 1992

 

 

Judge Annabelle Clinton Imber
Chancery Judge - 6th Judicial Circuit
6th Division Chancery and Probate Courts
Pulaski County Courthouse, Room 102
Little Rock, AR 72201

Re: Advisory Opinion No. 92-05

Dear Judge Imber,

You have asked whether a judge may, consistently with the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct, attend a Presidential Inaugural Ball for President Bill Clinton in Washington, D.C. in January, 1993.

The Code of Judicial Conduct restricts involvement by judges in politics. The policy behind separation of judges from politics is clear. As the New Jersey Supreme Court has stated: "The principle is an essential ingredient of judicial independence; it is probably the most important requirement for maintaining public confidence in the judiciary." In re Lehrer, 125 N.J.L.J. 243 (1990). Canons 1 and 2 mandate that a judge uphold the independence of the judiciary and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Judges must avoid creating the impression that they are subject to political pressure or influence.

However, under Canon 7(A) (2), judges holding offices filled by election (as in Arkansas) have more latitude than judges in positions filled by appointment, whether in Arkansas or in other states. Accordingly circuit judges, chancellors, appellate judges and others may attend political gatherings, identify themselves as a member of a political party, and contribute to a political party or organization. But they may not speak to such gatherings on behalf of candidates (apart from themselves), solicit funds, have a leadership position, or publicly endorse a candidate.

The Presidential Inaugural Ball may be a celebration, rather than a "political gathering." The costs or admission charged may be used to defray the cost of the event, may be given to a charitable organization, or may be used to support Democratic Party activities. Regardless of those factual distinctions, Arkansas judges who hold offices filled by election may purchase tickets and attend the Inaugural Balls.

Sincerely,



James A. Badami
for the Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

 

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