Canon 7. Judges should refrain from political activity inappropriate to their judicial office.
A. Political conduct in general.
(1) A judge or a candidate for election to judicial office should not:
(a) act as a leader or hold any office in a political organization;
(b) make speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office; except as authorized in subsection A(2);
Candidates do not publicly endorse another candidate for public office by having their name on the same ticket.
(c) solicit funds for or pay an assessment or make a contribution to a political organization or candidate, attend political gatherings, or purchase tickets for political party dinners, or other functions, except as authorized in subsection A(2);
(2) Judges holding an office filled by public election between competing candidates, or a candidate for such office, may, only insofar as permitted by law, attend political gatherings, speak to such gatherings on their own behalf when they are a candidate for election or reelection, or speak on behalf of any judicial candidate for the same office, identify themselves as a member of a political party, and contribute to a political party or organization.
(3) Judges should resign their office when they become a candidate either in a party primary or in a general election for a non-judicial office, except that they may continue to hold their judicial office while being a candidate for election to or serving as a delegate in a state constitutional convention, if they are otherwise permitted by law to do so.
(4) Judges should not engage in any other political activity except on behalf of measures to improve the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.
B. Campaign conduct.
(1) Candidates, including an incumbent judge, for a judicial office that is filled either by public election between competing candidates or on the basis of a merit system election:
(a) should maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office, and should encourage members of their family to adhere to the same standards of political conduct that apply to them;
(b) should prohibit public officials or employees subject to their direction or control from doing for them what judges are prohibited from doing under this Canon; and except to the extent authorized under subsection B(2) or B(3), they should not allow any other person to do for them what judges are prohibited from doing under this Canon;
(c) should not make pledges or promises of conduct in office other than the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of the office; make statements that commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court; or misrepresent their identity, qualifications, present position, or other fact.
The provisions of this Canon 7 amended March 18, 2008, effective immediately, 38 Pa.B. 1445. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (319848) to (319849).
(2) Candidates, including an incumbent judge, for a judicial office that is filled by public election between competing candidates should not themselves solicit or accept campaign funds, or solicit publicly stated support, but they may establish committees of responsible persons to secure and manage the expenditure of funds for their campaign and to obtain public statements of support for their candidacy. Such committees are not prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions and public support from lawyers. Candidates committees may solicit funds for their campaign no earlier than thirty days prior to the first day for filing nominating petitions or the last day for filing a declaration of intention to seek reelection on a retention basis, and all fundraising activities in connection with such judicial campaign shall terminate no later than the last calendar day of the year in which the judicial election is held. Candidates should not use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of themselves or members of their family.
(3) Incumbent judges who are candidates for retention in or reelection to office without a competing candidate may campaign and may obtain publicly stated support and campaign funds in the manner provided in subsection B(2).
Compliance With The Code of Judicial Conduct
Anyone, whether or not a lawyer, who is an officer of a judicial system performing judicial functions, including an officer such as a referee in bankruptcy, special master, court commissioner, or magistrate, is a judge for the purpose of this Code. All judges should comply with this Code except as provided below.
Senior Judge. Senior judges who receive the same compensation as full-time judges on the court from which they retired and are eligible for recall to judicial service should comply with all the provisions of this Code except Canon 5G, but they should refrain from judicial service during the period of an extra-judicial appointment not sanctioned by Canon 5G. All other senior judges eligible for recall to judicial service should comply with the provisions of this Code.
This Code shall not apply to magisterial district judges and judges of the Traffic Court of the City of Philadelphia.
Specific rules governing standards of conduct of magisterial district judges, and judges of the Traffic Court of the City of Philadelphia, are set forth in the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges.
Effective Date of Compliance
Persons to whom this Code becomes applicable should arrange their affairs as soon as reasonably possible to comply with it. If, however, the demands on their time and the possibility of conflicts of interest are not substantial, persons who hold judicial office on the date this Code becomes effective may:
(a) continue to act as an officer, director, or nonlegal advisor of a family business;
(b) continue to act as an executor, administrator, trustee, or other fiduciary for the estate or person of one who is not a member of their family.
Reliance on Advisory Opinions
The Ethics Committee of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges is designated as the approved body to render advisory opinions regarding ethical concerns involving judges, justices and other judicial officers subject to the Code of Judicial Conduct, and, although such opinions are not per se binding upon the Judicial Conduct Board, the Court of Judicial Discipline or the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, action taken in reliance thereupon and pursuant thereto shall be taken into account in determining whether discipline should be recommended or imposed.
Commentary: The United States Supreme Court in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 122 S. Ct. 2528 (2002), concluded that a canon of judicial conduct prohibiting judicial candidates from announcing their views on disputed legal or political issues is violative of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The provisions of this Canon 7 amended September 9, 1991, effective September 7, 1991, 21 Pa.B. 4396; amended November 9, 1998, effective January 1, 1999, 28 Pa.B. 5849; order amended November 24, 1998, 28 Pa.B. 6069; amended November 21, 2002, effective immediately, 32 Pa.B. 5951. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (251691) to (251692) and (287549) to (287550).
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