1994-11:Judge's Endorsement of candidate

Opinion No. 94-11

May 16, 1994

TOPIC: Judge's authority to publicly endorse a candidate for judicial office.

DIGEST: The Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct generally prohibits judges from publicly endorsing or opposing candidates for judicial office. An exception to this rule, however, is that judges running for judicial office are allowed to publicly endorse or oppose other candidates in the same public election that the judge is a candidate.

REFERENCES: Illinois Supreme Court Rule 67A(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 7 (145 Ill.2d R. 67) 1994; Illinois Supreme Court Rule 67A(1)(b) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 7 (145 Ill.2d R. 67); Illinois Supreme Court Rule 67B(1)(b)(iv) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 7 (145 Ill.2d R. 67).

FACTS

A judge who is not currently running for judicial office wants to publicly support a judge who is currently a candidate for judicial office. Another judge who is currently a candidate for a seat on the bench of the circuit court wants to publicly support another candidate in the same election.

QUESTIONS

1. Can a judge who is not a candidate publicly support a judge who is a candidate for judicial office?

2. Can a judge who is a candidate for judicial office publicly support another candidate for the same judicial office?

OPINION

Question #1

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 67A(1) states the general rule which prohibits judges from publicly stating their opinions regarding candidates for office. The Rule states that "a judge . . . shall not . . . publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office." 67A(1)(b). A judgeship is a public office. The Rule, therefore, clearly prohibits a judge who is not a candidate from publicly endorsing or opposing any candidate for judicial or other public office.

Question #2

Subsection B of Supreme Court Rule 67 lists exceptions to the general rule which limits the political activities of judges. One exception is that "A judge...may...when a candidate for public election... publicly endorse or publicly oppose other candidates in a public election in which the judge or judicial candidate is running." 67B(1)(b)(iv). Thus, a judge who is running for judicial office may publicly endorse or oppose other candidates. For example, a judge running for circuit court judge could publicly endorse other candidates for circuit court judge as well as candidates for any other office.

A related question is whether a judge who is running for retention could publicly support or oppose other candidates in the same public election. The answer to the question is "yes". The judge seeking retention is a candidate for public election and would be able to publicly support or oppose other candidates including candidates for judicial election and other judges running for retention.