Committee Issues Advice to Judges: Campaign Contributions from Political Action Committees
A state Supreme Court committee issued an advisory opinion explaining when a judge may accept campaign contributions from a political action committee when the contribution includes funds from another political action committee organized and funded by court employees.
In CJEO Expedited Opinion 2021-040, the Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) notes judges are ethically prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions from court employees, either directly or indirectly through affiliated entities such as an employee political action committee.
CJEO also cautions that judges are not permitted to use any form of coercion to pressure employees or affiliated entities to contribute to judicial campaigns.
CJEO concludes that in the absence of such improper solicitation or coercion, a judge may accept a campaign contribution from a political action committee that includes contributions from another political action committee organized and funded by court employees.
Although judges are allowed to accept campaign contributions from political action committees in many circumstances, when contributions originate from donations by individuals such as court reporters, clerks and others employed by the judicial branch, judges need to be particularly careful to ensure there is no violation of the absolute prohibitions against solicitation or coercion of court employees,” said committee member Commissioner Belinda A. Handy.
About the Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO)
The Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions is a 12-member advisory committee that includes appellate justices, trial court judges, a retired judge and a commissioner. The committee is appointed and authorized by the California Supreme Court, but its work is independent of the court, the Judicial Council, and all other entities. Its opinions are advisory and do not necessarily reflect the views of the California Supreme Court or any other entity.
CJEO issues formal, informal and expedited opinions on proper judicial conduct pursuant to the California Code of Judicial Ethics and other authorities. CJEO posts the opinions on the CJEO website for the benefit of the bench and the public.