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Judicial candidates warned about campaign content

June 27, 2014

Candidates for judicial office should not use photographs of courtrooms in their campaign materials, and only incumbent judges should be depicted in judicial robes in campaign ads, according to an advisory opinion from the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications.

The opinion released Thursday addressing Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 4 also advises that judicial candidates should avoid potentially misleading words and phrases in campaign slogans. For instance, a slogan such as “Elect Jones Circuit Court Judge” could be problematic if Jones isn’t an incumbent, because the phrasing implies Jones is a sitting judge.

The opinion, citing similar opinions and holdings from other states, also advises judges seeking a different judicial office to refrain from using “re-elect” in their campaign materials.

“The use of campaign photos featuring a judge wearing his or her black robes is subject to the same analysis as campaign slogans with regard to the potential to mislead voters,” the opinion says. “In general, incumbent judges who are running for re-election may wear their judicial robes in campaign advertisements without fear of misleading the public.

“However, non-incumbent judges should ensure the campaign material clearly conveys the role the judge currently holds, and judicial candidates who are not currently judges should avoid being pictured in judicial robes as it creates the misleading impression that the candidate already is a judge.”

Candidates and their campaign committees have a duty to ensure their campaign materials and practices comply with judicial canons.

“When preparing campaign materials, judges and judicial candidates always must be mindful of their duties to protect the integrity, independence, and impartiality of the judiciary,” the opinion says. “Inherent in this concept is the duty to avoid using the prestige of judicial office to promote one’s candidacy and the duty to be truthful in all communications with potential voters.”  


 

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