Rule 4.1. Political and Campaign Activities of Magisterial District Judges and Judicial Candidates in General.
(A) Except as permitted by Rules 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4, a magisterial district judge or a judicial candidate shall not:
(1) act as a leader in, or hold an office in, a political organization;
(2) make speeches on behalf of a political organization or a candidate for any public office;
(3) publicly endorse or publicly oppose a candidate for any public office;
(4) solicit funds for, pay an assessment to, or make a contribution to a political organization or a candidate for public office;
(5) attend or purchase tickets for dinners or other events sponsored by a political organization or a candidate for public office;
(6) use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of the judge or others;
(7) personally solicit or accept campaign contributions other than through a campaign committee authorized by Rule 4.4;
(8) use court staff, facilities, or other court resources in a campaign for judicial office;
(9) knowingly or with reckless disregard for the truth make any false or misleading statement;
(10) make any statement that would reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending in any court;
(11) engage in any political activity on behalf of a political organization or candidate for public office except on behalf of measures to improve the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice; or
(12) in connection with cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of judicial office.
(B) A magisterial district judge or judicial candidate shall take reasonable measures to ensure that other persons do not undertake, on behalf of the magisterial district judge or judicial candidate, any activities prohibited under paragraph (A).
(1) Even when subject to public election, a magisterial district judge plays a role different from that of a legislator or executive branch official. Rather than making decisions based upon the expressed views or preferences of the electorate, a magisterial district judge makes decisions based upon the law and the facts of every case. Therefore, in furtherance of this interest, magisterial district judges and judicial candidates must, to the extent reasonably possible, be free and appear to be free from political influence and political pressure. This Canon imposes narrowly tailored restrictions upon the political and campaign activities of all magisterial district judges and judicial candidates, taking into account the various methods of selecting magisterial district judges.
(2) When a person becomes a judicial candidate, this Canon becomes applicable to his or her conduct. These Rules do not prohibit candidates from campaigning on their own behalf, from endorsing or opposing candidates for the same judicial office for which they are a candidate, or from endorsing candidates for another elective judicial office appearing on the same ballot. See Rules 4.2(B)(2) and 4.2(B)(3). Candidates do not publicly endorse another candidate for public office by having their name on the same ticket.
Participation in Political Activities
(3) Public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary is eroded if judges or judicial candidates are perceived to be subject to political influence. Although magisterial district judges and judicial candidates may register to vote as members of a political party, they are prohibited by paragraph (A)(1) from assuming leadership roles in political organizations.
(4) Paragraphs (A)(2) and (A)(3) prohibit magisterial district judges from making speeches on behalf of political organizations or publicly endorsing or opposing candidates for public office, respectively, to prevent them from abusing the prestige of judicial office to advance the interests of others. See Rule 1.3.
(5) Although members of the families of magisterial district judges and judicial candidates are free to engage in their own political activity, including becoming a candidate for public office, there is no family exception to the prohibition in Rule 4.1(A)(3) against a magisterial district judge or candidate publicly endorsing candidates for public office. A magisterial district judge or judicial candidate must not become involved in, or publicly associated with, a family members political activity or campaign for public office. To avoid public misunderstanding, magisterial district judges and judicial candidates should take, and should urge members of their families to take, reasonable steps to avoid any implication that they endorse any family members candidacy or other political activity.
(6) Magisterial district judges and judicial candidates retain the right to participate in the political process as voters in both primary and general elections.
Pledges, Promises, or Commitments Inconsistent with Impartial Performance of the Adjudicative Duties of Judicial Office
(7) The role of a magisterial district judge is different from that of a legislator or executive branch official, even when the magisterial district judge is subject to public election. Campaigns for judicial office must be conducted differently from campaigns for other offices. The narrowly drafted restrictions upon political and campaign activities of judicial candidates provided in Canon 4 allow candidates to conduct campaigns that provide voters with sufficient information to permit them to distinguish between candidates and make informed electoral choices.
(8) Rule 4.1(A)(12) makes applicable to both magisterial district judges and judicial candidates the prohibition that applies to magisterial district judges in Rule 2.10(B), relating to pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of judicial office.
(9) The making of a pledge, promise, or commitment is not dependent upon, or limited to, the use of any specific words or phrases; instead, the totality of the statement must be examined to determine whether the candidate for judicial office has specifically undertaken to reach a particular result. Pledges, promises, or commitments must be contrasted with statements or announcements of personal views on legal, political, or other issues, which are not prohibited. When making such statements, a magisterial district judge should acknowledge the overarching judicial obligation to apply and uphold the law, without regard to his or her personal views.
(10) A judicial candidate may make campaign promises related to judicial organization, administration, and court management, such as a promise to dispose of a backlog of cases, start court sessions on time, or avoid favoritism in appointments and hiring. A candidate may also pledge to take action outside the courtroom, such as advocating for more funds to improve the physical plant and amenities of the courthouse.
(11) Judicial candidates may receive questionnaires or requests for interviews from the media and from issue advocacy or other community organizations that seek to learn their views on disputed or controversial legal or political issues. Paragraph (A)(12) does not specifically address judicial responses to such inquiries. Depending upon the wording and format of such questionnaires, candidates responses might be viewed as pledges, promises, or commitments to perform the adjudicative duties of office other than in an impartial way. To avoid violating paragraph (A)(12), therefore, candidates who respond to media and other inquiries should also give assurances that they will keep an open mind and will carry out their adjudicative duties faithfully and impartially if elected. Candidates who do not respond may state their reasons for not responding, such as the danger that answering might be perceived by a reasonable person as undermining a successful candidates independence or impartiality, or that it might lead to frequent disqualification. See Rule 2.11.
The provisions of this Rule 4.1 amended October 31, 2014, effective December 1, 2014, 44 Pa.B. 7169. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (373727) to (373729).
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