The Ten Commandments for Judicial Elections

By:  Jeff Davis, Director, Judicial Qualifications Commission

The campaign season is in full-swing for candidates for judicial office.  It is important to remember that, as far as campaigns go, judicial elections are different.  Campaign conduct for both sitting judges and candidates for judicial office is governed by the Code of Judicial Conduct (CJC), particularly Canon 7.  Ethical guidelines concerning political activity apply to both part-time and full-time judges.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) has compiled the Commission’s advisory opinions on election issues under the link “Election Guidelines” at


This article attempts to briefly highlight the “10 Commandments” for judicial elections:  five “mays” and five “may nots.”

Judges or candidates for judicial office:

I.  May personally solicit funds, endorsements and votes.  As it relates to solicitation of funds, the better practice is to establish a campaign committee to receive all funds. 

II.  May use the term “judge” and may wear a robe in campaign materials only if the candidate currently sits as a judge and the materials clearly identify the position the judge currently holds.  Candidates for judge who do not currently hold judicial office, or who are not incumbents but hold another judicial office other than the one they are seeking, must state the following on campaign signage and advertisements: “Elect/VoteJohn Smith for ________ Court Judge.” Omission of either of these terms misrepresents to the public the current status of the candidate as a non-incumbent.  Judicial incumbents may state: “Re-Elect Judge John Smith, __________ Court Judge.”

III.  May use general political terms such as: conservative, progressive or liberal.  In partisan races, the candidate is permitted to identify themselves as Republican or Democrat in advertisements when required by law to run as a partisan official. 
IV.  May attend a meeting of a political party, even as a non-partisan judicial candidate, to seek the support of their candidacy. 

V.  May attend a fundraising or campaign event for another candidate, including a political party affiliated non-judicial candidate, even when running as a non-partisan judicial candidate, to seek support of those present at the event. 

VI.  May not make contributions to political parties or endorse a political party platform.

VII.  May not endorse other candidates for political office.  However, candidates may make campaign contributions to other political candidates.  Such contributions do not constitute a public endorsement.

VIII.  May not display political support buttons or political signage (on property they own or on personal vehicles) in support of another political candidate.

IX.  May not place campaign materials in a judicial office or use state/county resources, including employees, during normal business hours in furtherance of the campaign. 
X.  May not comment or make statements with respect to substantive issues of law likely to come before the court in a manner which reflects a promise, pledge or commitment to rule in a particular way, apart from general statements to uphold the law.

The JQC is available to review your campaign materials to ensure compliance with the CJC, answer any questions about appropriate campaign activity, or receive complaints about inappropriate election activity.  The JQC can be reached at 706-343-5891.


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