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August 23, 1993


Honorable Chris Piazza
Circuit Judge, 2nd Division
201 W. 3rd Street, Suite 371
Little Rock, AR 72201

Honorable John Plegge
Circuit Judge, 7th Division
201 W. 3rd Street, Suite 351
Little Rock, AR 72201

Honorable John Langston
Circuit Judge, 4th Division
201 W. 3rd Street, Suite 331
Little Rock, AR 72201,

Re: Advisory Opinion # 93-04

Dear Judges,

On July 26, 1993 you wrote to the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee for our comments on two questions:

1. Can the campaign committee for a judge maintain a surplus that does not exceed the [yearly] salary of the judge? and

2. Can a campaign committee dispose of existing surplus funds, or must it distribute funds to contributors or to the State Treasurer per the new code? Is it retroactive?

In the process of posing these two questions you quote the last sentence of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct (July 5, 1993):

Canon 5C(2): "...Any campaign fund surplus shall be returned to the contributors or turned over (sic) the State Treasurer as provided by law."

And you refer to Act 1196 of 1993, that amended Arkansas Code Section 7-6-203(j)(1)(C)(i), viz:

"(j)(1). Within 30 days following a general election a candidate shall turn over to either:...(C) The contributors to the candidate's campaign any balance of campaign funds over expenses incurred as of the day of the election except for: (i) an amount equal to the yearly salary, excluding expense allowance, set by Arkansas law for the office sought;...".

And you conclude your letter by stating that many judicial campaign committees maintain a surplus to be used as a filing fee in the next election.

This Committee is one of extremely narrow jurisdiction. For instance, we may comment only upon intended future judicial conduct (not past or present), and in order to bring your letter request, in part, within that requirement we have assumed that you intend to instruct your respective campaign committees to keep the surplus funds they now hold for your benefit in your next political campaigns.

The involved portion of Canon 5C(2) is short, concise, unambiguous and without vague or conflicting terms. Furthermore, there are no exceptions, exclusions or limitations of any description to its mandated message that it is a violation of the code for a judicial campaign surplus funds to exist.

Your question as to whether this Canon contains, or is surrounded by a legal infirmity (such as improper conflict with the constitution, a statute, or established rule of law) presents legal issues upon which we are enjoined from comment.

Sincerely,

 

 

James A. Badami

For the Committee

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