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November 15, 2013
Rule change would allow some judges to campaign together

On its own motion, the Florida Supreme Court is considering amending a judicial canon to allow candidates facing active opposition in a merit retention election for the same judicial office to campaign together.

“The court is concerned that, without the amendments, certain Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee opinions and opinions from the court could lead to the conclusion that such joint campaigning is prohibited under the Canon 7A(1)(B) prohibition on a candidate for judicial office publicly endorsing another candidate for public office,” the court said in its October 28 official notice, In Re: Amendments to the Code of Judicial Conduct ­— Canon 7, Case No. SC13-1951.

“The court also is concerned that, if Canon 7 were so construed, the prohibition on joint campaigning by merit retention candidates for the same judicial office who are facing opposition would not serve a compelling interest. If adopted, the amendments under consideration would apply only to candidates in a merit retention election for the same judicial office.”

The proposed new language under Canon 7C (2) Judge or Candidate for Judicial Office Shall Refrain from Inappropriate Political Activity, is as follows:

“This includes candidates facing active opposition in a merit retention election for the same judicial office campaigning together and conducting a joint campaign designed to educate the public on merit retention and each candidate’s views as to why he or she should be retained in office, to the extent not otherwise prohibited by Florida law.”

The proposed new language in the commentary is as follows:

“Section 7A(1)(b) prohibits judges and judicial candidates from publicly endorsing or opposing candidates for public office to prevent them from abusing the prestige of judicial office to advance the interests of others. Section 7C(3) authorizes candidates facing active opposition in a merit retention election for the same judicial office to campaign together and conduct a joint campaign designed to educate the public on merit retention and each candidate’s views as to why he or she should be retained in office, to the extent not otherwise prohibited by Florida law. Joint campaigning by merit retention candidates, as authorized under Section C(3), is not a prohibited public endorsement of another candidate under Section 7A(1)(b).”

All interested persons are invited to comment by December 16, on the amendments under consideration, which can be found in this News, and online at www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/proposed.shtml.

[Revised: 03-08-2014]