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Guidelines for the Conduct of Campaigns for Judicial Office


Since public confidence in the objectivity of the judicial process requires that contests for local judicial offices be conducted in such a way as not to impair that public confidence, the following guidelines have been established setting forth minimum standards applicable to campaigns for judicial office.

These guidelines have been adopted by the Board of Trustees of the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA), following receipt of comments and suggestions from many organizations of the bench and bar and many interested individuals. Asserted violations of the guidelines may be investigated by the Fair Judicial Election Practices Committee of the LACBA, which may make public a report of its findings. Proven violations may be considered by the Judicial Evaluation Committee of the LACBA in connection with its evaluation of candidates for judicial office.

The functions and operations of the Fair Judicial Election Practices Committee are outlined in more detail in Section III below.


A. Applicability of the Guidelines
These guidelines apply to judges, to lawyers seeking judicial office, and to any person acting on their behalf in both primary and general judicial election campaigns.

B. Fund Raising

1. No sum shall be accepted on behalf of a candidate which is so large as to create the appearance that the donor is seeking to gain advantage or special favor from the candidate in the performance of the duties of judicial office.
2. Contributions shall not knowingly be solicited or accepted from:

(a) A party, or one affiliated with a party, to litigation that is before the candidate for decision, or may reasonably be expected to come before the candidate in the near future, or has so recently been before the candidate that the solicitation or acceptance of funds might create the appearance of the improper use of judicial office;
(b) A corporation, firm or other organization that has as one of its purposes the promotion of one side of a legal issue which is before the candidate for decision or may reasonably be expected to come before a candidate in the near future if he or she is elected, or has so recently been before the candidate that the solicitation or acceptance of funds might create the appearance of the improper use of judicial office;
(c) Lawyers who then have cases before the candidate for decision if the contribution violates paragraph B. 1. above;
(d) Those lawyers who are, or who would reasonably be expected to be, required by their employment by public agencies or contract with a public agency to appear with relative frequency before the candidate.

C. Media and Campaign Statements

1. Forms of Communication

(a) Permissible Media
Any of the media, including, but not limited to, radio, the internet, slate mailers, television, newspapers, other publications, posters, letters and handbills, may be used to convey campaign material.
(b) Candidate's Accountability
The candidate is personally responsible for the truth and propriety of campaign material and should first approve all campaign advertisements, handbills, posters, releases to news media, scripts for television and radio broadcasts, and any other forms of material issued by others on his or her behalf.

2. Campaign Statements in the Media or Otherwise

(a) Any material presented in connection with a campaign for judicial office, including the statement of qualifications submitted on behalf of the candidate through the Registrar-Recorder's office, shall reflect the dignity and integrity of that office.
(b) Campaign material and statements shall not be untruthful or be presented in a manner which tends to mislead.
(c) Campaign material and statements referring to a judicial candidate's services as a volunteer temporary judge shall use the phrase "Temporary Judge" and shall not use the phrase "Judge Pro Tem," and shall state that the services are voluntary.
(d) Only full-time judges and full-time subordinate judicial officers may be pictured wearing judicial robes in campaign materials.

3. Conduct of Campaign
A candidate should seek votes only on the basis of facts and arguments that relate to his or her qualifications, and those of opponents, as to ability to be a capable and impartial judge.

D. Appearances

1. A candidate may appear before political, civic and other organizations, alone or with candidates for other offices, judicial or non-judicial.
2. Where a candidate appears before political, civic, or other organizations in the company of candidates for other offices, he or she shall not permit any representation that his or her appearance is an endorsement of any candidate for non-judicial office.
3. A candidate for judicial office may speak to political gatherings only on his or her own behalf or on behalf of other candidates for judicial office.

E. Endorsements

1. A candidate, in his or her appearances and campaign materials, may refer to endorsements received by the candidate, other than endorsements prohibited in Paragraph E.2. below, as well as the endorsements received by opponents.
2. The candidate should not seek, and should discourage and avoid, public endorsements or support by:

(a) a non-lawyer who is a party, or employed by, affiliated with, or a member of the immediate family of, a party to pending litigation which is or may reasonably be expected to come before the candidate in the near future for decision , or has come before the candidate so recently that endorsement of the candidate may give the appearance of improper use of judicial office;
(b) a lawyer who has a case or cases before the judicial candidate for decision; or
(c) a lawyer who is, or who would reasonably be expected to be, required by his or her employment by a public agency or a contract with a public agency to appear with relative frequency before the candidate.

F. Political Activity During Campaign

1. A judge or other candidate should not, during the campaign for judicial office:


(a) act as a leader or hold any office in a political organization;
(b) make speeches for a partisan political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for a non-judicial office;
(c) solicit funds for a partisan political candidate; or
(d) make contributions to a political party or political organization or a non-judicial candidate in excess of five hundred dollars in any calendar year per political party or political organization or candidate or in excess of an aggregate of one thousand dollars in any calendar year for all political parties or political organizations or non-judicial candidates.

2. No candidate for judicial office shall make a public statement, or release to the media, or permit such a statement or release to be made on his or her behalf, alleging that a complaint against his or her opponent is pending before the Fair Judicial Election Practices Committee, or that an investigation of his or her opponent is being conducted by that Committee.


A. Functions of the Committee
The Committee's functions shall be to receive and investigate complaints of violations of these Guidelines and to take appropriate action to implement such Guidelines.

B. Membership
The committee shall consist of approximately fifteen members, one-third of whom shall be lay members not admitted to practice law in any state or the District of Columbia. The remainder shall be members of the LACBA. At least two retired judges shall serve on the Committee but no active judges shall serve on the Committee. No Committee member shall publicly endorse or oppose any candidate for judicial office or personally contribute to any such candidate's campaign.

C. Complaints
The Committee shall receive and investigate complaints of alleged violations of the Guidelines. Such complaints shall be in writing, from candidates or their specifically authorized or designated representatives. However, if the Committee elects, it may receive and investigate complaints from others. Under no circumstances shall the Committee consider complaints involving acts which occurred prior to the approval of the Guidelines by the Board of Trustees of the LACBA.

D. Subcommittees
The Committee may establish subcommittees of its membership to investigate complaints and to make recommendations to the Committee of appropriate action to implement the Guidelines. Each subcommittee shall consist of a minimum of three members, one of whom shall be a lay member.

E. Investigations
In connection with each such investigation, the subcommittee shall invite the complainant and the candidate against whom the complaint was filed to appear before it. Such invitations shall specify that representatives of such candidates, or others, may not appear unless requested by the subcommittee. It shall be the goal of the Committee that:

1. Its subcommittees complete their investigation and submit to the Committee their recommendations within seventy-two hours of receipt by the subcommittee of each complaint, and
2. The Committee shall deliberate upon and complete action on each complaint as soon as possible, and in any event within seven days of receipt by the Committee of each complaint.

F. ;Confidentiality
The Committee members, the candidates and their authorized or designated representatives shall at all times hold confidential the filing of a complaint, subcommittee hearings, investigations and deliberations, subject to the need for investigation.

G. Committee Consideration and Action
The Committee shall not act through its subcommittees, except as set forth hereinabove, and all public releases shall be from the Committee. The Committee shall consider and determine prior to any public release by the Committee, what action, in its judgment, is most appropriate to the effective implementation of the Guidelines, which action may include:

1. Securing an agreed-upon resolution of the matter by the candidates;
2. Securing from the candidate not complying with the Guidelines a public retraction of erroneous statements or an agreement to cease non-compliance;
3. Notifying the complainant of the Committee's recommendations and findings for his or her use. Such notification shall simultaneously be made to the candidate against whom the complaint was made;
4. Announcing to the media and candidates involved the Committee's findings and recommendations;
5. Any combination of the foregoing; or
6. Taking no action, in which event the candidates involved shall be so notified.

All rulings and procedures of the Committee and its subcommittees to supplement those contained herein, including a workable quorum requirement, shall be established by the Committee.