Hinds County Attorney special election versus the Code of Judicial Conduct

I must admit that I’ve got some concerns with the Code of Judicial Conduct, especially as it relates to judicial elections.  I have a petition to amend the Code of Judicial Conduct that has been pending with the Supreme Court for over a year and a half.

I thought it was pretty clear that if a judge runs for a non-judicial office, then the judge must immediately resign.  Canon 5(A)(2) says:

A judge shall resign from judicial office upon becoming a candidate either in a party primary or in a general election for a non-judicial office, except that the judge may continue to hold judicial office while being a candidate for election to or serving as a delegate in a state constitutional convention if the judge is otherwise permitted by law to do so.

The Clarion Ledger article quoted below says that the Commission on Judicial Performance will take no action against the judge who is running for the County Attorney position.  I hope we get more from the Commission about this decision.  This is a decision that must be consistently applied to all judges, or it’s not a rule any longer.

I guess that since this is a “special” election, this provision does not apply.  Or, it could be that judges may run for Governor or Attorney General without having to resign their office. Actually, it’s a good question if a Judge would have to resign to run for Attorney General – the office of Attorney General is a judicial office under the Mississippi Constitution, just like the Board of Supervisors.

The Clarion Ledger article reports:

A Jackson municipal judge says Mississippi’s judicial watchdog agency has voted to take no action against him for not resigning from office while running for the upcoming, non-judicial job of Hinds County attorney in a November special election.

The Commission on Judicial Performance met Friday, but voted to take no adverse action against him, Gerald Mumford said in a statement.

Commission on Judicial Performance Executive Director Darlene Ballard said Monday that commission actions are confidential until released by the state Supreme Court. Ballard would only confirm that the commission met Friday.

Late last month, Ballard sent  letters to Mumford and Byram Municipal Judge Malcolm Harrison, who is also running for the Hinds County seat, saying they were in violation of Judicial Canon 5(2).

Harrison said he resigned his position when he was made aware he was possibly in violation of the judicial code.

Mumford said earlier this month that he had no plans to resign and was willing to take the case to the state Supreme Court.

Mumford said he believes the code applies only to party primaries and general elections, not a special election.

Harrison, Mumford and Martin Perkins are running in the Nov. 7 special election for Hinds County attorney.

Ballard has said any judge should resign his or her position if running for a nonjudicial office in a party primary or general election. She said the Mississippi Supreme Court in an opinion said the code applied to all elections, including special elections.

Ballard said the commission can take action against a judge who violates the code, which could include a reprimand and requiring an offender to repay any salary received from the time of the campaign to the election.

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