RE: Propriety of the spouse of a part-time municipal judge participating in a political campaign.
The brother-in-law of a part-time municipal judge is running for an elected office. The judge inquires into the propriety of the following political activity.
1. Can judge's spouse put magnetic signs on a personal automobile? If so, Can the judge ride in that vehicle?
2. Can the judge's spouse wear a campaign t-shirt? If so, can the t-shirt be worn in the presence of the judge?
3. On election night, is the judge permitted to gather with friends and family in a public place for the counting of the votes?
4. Can the judge's spouse put a campaign sign in their front yard? Similarly, can the judge's spouse assist the brother-in-law in placing campaign signs around the city and county?
The judge's spouse may participate in the political campaign of a family member.
Rule Canon 5.A (1), Rule 501 SCACR, governs the political activity of judges, and prohibits judges from endorsing other candidates, attending political gatherings, or making contributions to a political candidate. However, the Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct specifically exempts part-time judges: A continuing part-time judge is not required to comply...at any time with ...Section 5A(1)[.]" Since the judge is not bound by the prohibitions against political activity, the judge's spouse is free to participate in the political campaign as described above. Furthermore, the judge may also accompany the spouse in the activities described above.
March 31, 2010