Opinion No. 96-19
September 16, 1996
TOPIC: Non-candidate judge featured as the speaker at a county Lincoln Day
Dinner promoted by a political party.
DIGEST: A judge may be the featured speaker at a political party Lincoln day
dinner that is held after the election only if the event is a community gathering
rather than a fundraiser for the political organization.
REFERENCES: Illinois Supreme Court Rule 67A(1)(c), B(1) and C of the Code
of Judicial Conduct, Canon 7 (145 Ill.2d R. 67).
On or about Lincoln's birthday many political party county organizations
promote an annual party. In off-years, the date is long after the election and too
soon to start on the next one, and is thus not like an ordinary political function.
The judge has been asked to be the featured speaker on the topic of domestic
violence cases in the courts.
May the judge accept the invitation of a political party to make a speech at a
Lincoln Day Dinner?
The judge may accept an invitation to be the featured speaker at a political
dinner and speak on the topic of domestic violence cases in the courts if the dinner
is not a fundraiser, and if such a speech does not otherwise compromise the
judge's independence or integrity.
When analyzing such an invitation to speak, it is necessary to make further
inquiry about the nature of the dinner to ascertain if it is a community event or a
fundraiser. The nature of the dinner determines if the the judge is speaking on
behalf of the legal system or on behalf of the political party.
Rule 67 allows a judge to participate in political activities to the extent of
identifying himself or herself as a member of a political party, buying tickets to
and attending a political function, and contributing to a political organization. It
forbids a non-candidate judge from making speeches on behalf of a political
organization, but allows a judge to make speeches on behalf of measures to
improve the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. Supreme Court
Rule 67 states in pertinent part:
A. All Judges and Candidates.
(1) Except as authorized in subsections B(1)(b) and B(3), a judge or a candidate
for election to judicial office shall not
(c) make speeches on behalf of a political organization;
B. Authorized Activities for Judges and Candidates.
(1) A judge or candidate may, except as prohibited
(a) at any time
(i) purchase tickets for and attend political
(ii) identify himself or herself as a member
of a political party; and
(iii) contribute to a political organization;
C. Incumbent Judges. A judge shall not engage in any political activity except
(i) as authorized under any other provision of this Code, (ii) on behalf of measures
to improve the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, or (iii) as
expressly authorized by law.
Webster's New World Dictionary defines "on behalf of" as "in the interest
of; for" and "speaking for; representing".
In the fact situation presented, the propriety of speaking at a Lincoln Day
political dinner would depend on the nature of the dinner. For example, if the
charge for the dinner covers the cost of the dinner and publicity, and the event is
generally attended by people from the community, the judge would be speaking
on behalf of measures to improve the law, the legal system or the administration of
justice. However, the situation would be different if any amount above the dinner
cost is retained by the political organization. If the event has any fundraising
component, the judge's speech would be made on behalf of the political party.
Although the topic of the judge's speech (domestic violence cases in the courts) is
the same, the circumstances surrounding it clearly change the propriety of the
judge's participation. At a political fundraiser, even a non-political speech must
be considered to be made on behalf of the political party, an activity which is
prohibited by Rule 67A(1)(c) for a non-candidate judge.