Ask the Model Code: May I reveal a party affiliation?

Dear Model Code:

Am I allowed to let the public know that I’m a member of a particular political party?

Sincerely,

Judge Possibly a Partier

Dear Judge Possibly:

Judges are not required to conceal their political party affiliation—which may be a matter of public record, anyway—but disclosing it may be subject to discipline.

Judges who obtain their positions through partisan elections must obviously disclose party affiliation; it’s printed on the ballot next to their name. That situation exists for trial judges in 20 of the 50 states. In nonpartisan elections, however, a judge is specifically prohibited from disclosing party affiliation.

Judges desiring appointment to the bench by a governor or legislature may “seek endorsements for the appointment from any person or organization other than a partisan political organization” (Rule 4.3(B) ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct).

Although a judge must refer to the code of judicial conduct of the judge’s own state for a definitive answer, the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, in Rule 4.1 A(6), provides that “except as provided by law or the Code, a judge shall not publically identify political affiliation.”

In fact, evidence exists that a judge may not even reveal the party affiliation of the executive responsible for judicial appointments. In 1997 the Florida Supreme Court found a judge had acted improperly during a retention election campaign when she noted the party affiliation of the governor who appointed her opponent to the bench. This was construed as injecting party politics into a nonpartisan election and constituted “egregious” conduct.

Therefore, unless you are a candidate in a partisan election, you’d be well advised to keep any party affiliation private.

Neutrally,

The Model Code of Judicial Conduct

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