Political activity by members of a judge’s family

With primary and general elections drawing nearer, below are links to 3 previous blog posts on political activity by members of a judge’s family, with summaries of advisory opinions issued since the original posts in 2016.

  • When a judge’s relative is a political candidate
  • A judicial candidate who is married to a judge may utilize the judge’s photograph in campaign advertising as long as her position is not identified and the advertising does not imply that she actively endorses his candidacy. Florida Advisory Opinion 2016-7.

  • A judge whose spouse is running for a partisan office may appear as the candidate’s spouse in a family photograph used in the campaign as long as he is not identified as a judge and there is no indication that he has endorsed her candidacy, but may not appear at non-partisan events where his spouse will be speaking, attend fund-raising events even if those events are not sponsored by a political party (i.e., “friendraisers” at private homes), or wear a campaign button or other item supporting the campaign. Florida Advisory Opinion 2017-16.

  • A judge’s parents and brother may be introduced during the public announcement of the judge’s spouse’s candidacy for elected office and may attend campaign events and fund-raisers as long as the judge’s position is not mentioned or featured. The spouse/candidate may explain that her spouse is absent from campaign events because his profession does not allow him to attend events or to endorse a candidate for office.  Florida Advisory Opinion 2018-2.

  • A judge may appear in a video that will be used in her brother’s congressional campaign as long as she is not identified as a judge. Kansas Advisory Opinion 185 (2017).

  • A judge may not make a contribution to his spouse’s campaign for political office, but his spouse may contribute to her own campaign even from community property funds in a joint checking account, although the judge should urge her to create a separate account from which to contribute. New Mexico Advisory Opinion 2017-1.

  • A judge may appear in a family photograph for her first-degree relative’s campaign literature provided she does not wear a judicial robe and nothing identifies her as a judge. New York Advisory Opinion 2017-79.

  • When a judge’s relative supports a political candidate
  • A judge’s spouse may make political contributions but not from a joint account. Maryland Opinion Request 2016-23.

  • A judge’s spouse may participate in the campaign of another person for office, but the judge should request that his name and position not be used in the campaign by his spouse, the candidate, or the campaign committee. The spouse may donate to the candidate using funds separate from the judge’s and should not use the judge’s name in the donation.  The judge should disqualify himself from any cases in which the candidate supported by his spouse is involved.  Pennsylvania Informal Advisory Opinion 1/23/2012.

  • A judge whose spouse is running for a local, non-partisan office may attend meet-and-greet functions for his campaign if her title is not used, but may not post her spouse’s campaign signs even if someone else obtains the landowners’ permission. South Carolina Advisory Opinion 6-2016.

  • Family political activities at a judge’s home
  • Although a judge’s spouse or significant other who shares an ownership interest with the judge in a property is not precluded from placing political signs on their jointly-owned property, the judge should explain the public perception issues and request that his spouse or significant other and request that she not place political signs on their property. If the spouse, significant other, or any other family member has no ownership interest in the property, the judge should not allow them to place political signs on his solely-owned property.  Arizona Advisory Opinion 2016-3.


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