December 14, 1989

The Ethics Advisory Committee has been asked for its opinion as to whether the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits a judge pro tempore from running for a non-judicial political office.

It is the committee's opinion that the Code does not prohibit such political activity by a judge pro tempore.

The Utah Code of Judicial Conduct contains a section governing judicial compliance with the Code. Subsection B provides:

A lawyer who is serving as a specially appointed judge pro tempore under the provisions of Section 79-6-1.5, Utah Code Annotated, 1953 as amended or Article VIII of the Utah Constitution shall comply with Canon 1, Canon 2A and Canons 3A , 3C and 3D. The judge may not practice law in the same small claims division in which the judge serves but may act as a lawyer in the civil or criminal division of that circuit or justice of the peace court.

Accordingly, Canons 1, 2A, 3A, 3C and 3D are the only provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct which apply to judges pro tempore.

These canons provide that a judge should uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary, Canon 1; that a judge should respect and comply with the law and exhibit conduct which promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, Canon 2A; and enunciate the standards for adjudicative responsibilities, disqualification and remittal of disqualification in a proceeding, Canons 3A, 3C and 3D.

Canon 7, which describes the political activity considered inappropriate to the judicial office, does not apply to judges pro tempore.

Accordingly, there is nothing in the applicable canons which prohibits a judge pro tempore from running for a political office. However, if the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned in a particular case as a result of the judge's political activity, the judge would be expected to adhere to Canon 3C and enter a disqualification in that proceeding.

In conclusion, it is the committee's opinion that a judge pro tempore is not prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct from running for political office while serving as a judge pro tempore. In reaching this conclusion, the committee assumes that should any conflicts of interest arise as a result of the judge's candidacy, the judge would follow the disqualification procedures outlined in Canon 3C.