Judicial Campaigns – Code of Judicial Conduct – Campaign Finance

Campaign Finance.

§ 23-15-1021. Limitations on contributions. “It shall be unlawful for any individual or political action committee not affiliated with a political party to give, donate, appropriate or furnish directly or indirectly, any money, security, funds or property. . . in excess of Five Thousand Dollars ($ 5,000.00) for the purpose of aiding any candidate or candidate’s political committee for judge of the Court of Appeals or justice of the Supreme Court, or to give, donate, appropriate or furnish directly or indirectly, any money, security, funds or property . . . in excess of Five Thousand Dollars ($ 5,000.00) for the purpose of aiding any candidate or candidate’s political committee for judge of the Court of Appeals or justice of the Supreme Court, as a contribution to the expense of a candidate for judicial office.”

§ 23-15-1023. Disclosure of campaign finances “Judicial candidates shall disclose the identity of any individual or entity from which the candidate or the candidate’s committee receives a loan or other extension of credit for use in his campaign and any cosigners for a loan or extension of credit. The candidate or the candidate’s committee shall disclose how the loan or other extension of credit was used, and how and when the loan or other extension of credit is to be repaid and the method of repayment. The candidate or the candidate’s committee shall disclose all loan documents related to such loans or extensions of credit.”

§ 97-13-15. Limitations on corporate contributions to political party or candidate. “It shall be unlawful for any corporation, incorporated company or incorporated association, by whatever name it may be known, incorporated or organized under the laws of this state, or doing business in this state, or for any servant, agent, employee or officer thereof, to give, donate, appropriate or furnish directly or indirectly, any money, security, funds or property of said corporation, incorporated company or incorporated association, in excess of One Thousand Dollars ($ 1,000.00) per calendar year for the purpose of aiding any political party or any candidate for any public office, or any candidate for any nomination for any public office of any political party, or to give, donate, appropriate or furnish, directly or indirectly, any money, security, funds or property of said corporation, incorporated company or association in excess of One Thousand Dollars ($ 1,000.00) to any committee or person as a contribution to the expense of any political party or any candidate, representative or committee of any political party or candidate for nomination by any political party, or any committee or other person acting in behalf of such candidate. The limit of One Thousand Dollars ($ 1,000.00) for contributions to political parties, candidates and committees or other persons acting in behalf of such candidates shall be an annual limitation applicable to each calendar year.

The Code of Judicial Conduct also includes some restrictions on what is called a “Major Donor”.

Code of Judicial Conduct Terminology.

“Major donor”, for the purposes of Section 3E(2), shall be defined as follows:

(a) If the donor is an individual, “donor” means that individual, the individual’s spouse, or the individual’s or the individual’s spouse’s child, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, grandchild, employee and employee’s spouse.

(b) If the donor is an entity other than an individual, “donor” means the entity, its employees, officers, directors, shareholders, partners members, and contributors and the spouse of any of them.

(c) A “major donor” is a donor who or which has, in the judge’s most recent election campaign, made a contribution to the judge’s campaign of (a) more than $2,000 if the judge is a justice of the Supreme Court or judge of the Court of Appeals, or (b) more than $1,000 if the judge is a judge of a court other than the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals.

(d) The term “contribution to the judge’s campaign” shall be the total of all contributions to a judge’s campaign and shall be deemed to include all contributions of every kind and type whatsoever, whether in the form of cash, goods, services, or other form of contribution, and whether donated directly to the judge’s campaign or donated to any other person or entity for the purpose of supporting the judge’s campaign and/or opposing the campaign of the judge’s opponent(s). The term “contribution to a judge’s campaign” shall also be deemed to include any publication, advertisement or other release of information, or payment therefor, other than a bona fide news item published by existing news media, which contains favorable information about the judge or which contains unfavorable information about the judge’s opponent(s).

Canon 3(C) – Administrative Responsibilities

(5) A judge shall not appoint a major donor to the judge’s election campaign to a position if the judge knows or learns by means of a timely motion that the major donor has contributed to the judge’s election campaign unless

(a) the position is substantially uncompensated;
(b) the person has been selected in rotation from a list of qualified and available persons compiled without regard to their having made political contributions; or
(c) the judge or another presiding or administrative judge affirmatively finds that no other person is willing, competent and able to accept the position.

Canon 3(E) – Disqualification/recusal

(2) Recusal of Judges from Lawsuits Involving Major Donors. A party may file a motion to recuse a judge based on the fact that an opposing party or counsel of record for that party is a major donor to the election campaign of such judge. Such motions will be filed, considered and subject to appellate review as provided for other motions for recusal.

Commentary

Section 3E(2) recognizes that political donations may but do not necessarily raise concerns about a judge’s impartiality. The filing, consideration and appellate review of motions for recusal based on such donations are subject to rules governing all recusal motions. For procedures concerning motions for recusal and review by the Supreme Court of denial of motions for recusal as to trial court judges, see M.R.C.P. 16A, URCCC 1.15, Unif. Chanc. R. 1.11, and M.R.A.P. 48B. For procedures concerning motions for recusal of judges of the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court justices, see M.R.A.P. 27(a). This provision does not appear in the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct; however, see Section 3E(1)(e) of the ABA model.

Canon 5(C)- Prohibition against Personal Solicitation

(2) A candidate shall not personally solicit or accept campaign contributions or personally solicit publicly stated support. A candidate may, however, establish committees of responsible persons to conduct campaigns for the candidate through media advertisements, brochures, mailings, candidate forums and other means not prohibited by law. Such committees may solicit and accept reasonable campaign contributions, manage the expenditure of funds for the candidate’s campaign and obtain public statements of support for the candidacy. Such committees are not prohibited from soliciting and accepting reasonable campaign contributions and public support from lawyers. A candidate’s committees shall not solicit or accept contributions and public support for the candidate’s campaign earlier than 60 days before the qualifying deadline or later than 120 days after the last election in which the candidate participates during the election year. A candidate shall not use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of the candidate or others.

Commentary
There is legitimate concern about a judge’s impartiality when parties whose interests may come before a judge, or the lawyers who represent such parties, are known to have made contributions to the election campaigns of judicial candidates. Section 5C(2) recognizes that in many jurisdictions judicial candidates must raise funds to support their candidacies for election to judicial office. It therefore permits a candidate, other than a candidate for appointment, to establish campaign committees to solicit and accept public support and financial contributions. Though not prohibited, campaign contributions of which a judge has knowledge, made by lawyers or others who appear before the judge, may, by virtue of their size or source, raise questions about a judge’s impartiality and be cause for disqualification as provided under Section 3E.

Campaign committees established under Section 5C(2) should manage campaign finances responsibly, avoiding deficits that might necessitate post-election fund-raising, to the extent possible. Such committees must at all times comply with applicable statutory provisions governing their conduct.

Section 5C(2) does not prohibit a candidate from initiating an evaluation by a judicial selection commission or bar association, or, subject to the requirements of this Code, from responding to a request for information from any organization.

(3) Candidates shall instruct their campaign committees at the start of the campaign not to accept campaign contributions for any election that exceed those limitations placed on contributions by individuals, political action committees and corporations by law.

Commentary

The ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct is drafted for the insertion of specific limits on contributions for judicial campaigns. As adopted for Mississippi, this section simply makes references to limits established by the Legislature by statutes which limit contributions to $5,000 in appellate court races, to $2,500 in chancery, circuit or county court races, and generally limits corporate contributions to $1,000. See Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-1021 (2000 Supp.) (judicial races) and Miss. Code Ann. § 97-13-15 (1999 Supp.) (corporate contributions.)

(4) A candidate and the candidate’s committee shall timely comply with all provisions of law requiring the disclosure and reporting of contributions, loans and extensions of credit.

Commentary

Section 5C(4) of the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct which makes special provision for reporting campaign contributions is replaced by the foregoing Section 5C(4) which requires compliance with all provisions of law. See Miss. Code Ann. §§ 23-15-805 and 23-15-1023 (2000 Supp.)

The ABA Model Code includes a Section 5C(5) which approves, under some circumstances, a judicial candidate’s name being listed on election materials along with the names of other candidates. This has not been incorporated in the revision of the Mississippi canons.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s