New Advisory Opinion on Judges Attending a Spouses Political Events

The Maryland Judicial Ethics Committee recently published an opinion providing guidance for judges when their spouse is running for elected office. See JEC Opinion 2022-01 (2022). The brief opinion considers two separate issues. First, may a judge whose spouse is running for political office attend and introduce the spouse and campaign events? Second, may the judge’s picture be included in the spouse’s campaign materials and on the spouse’s website?

A Judge Cannot Attend a Spouse’s Political Events

Opinion 2022-01 concludes that a judge whose spouse is running for political office cannot attend and introduce his/her spouse at the spouse’s campaign events. The Committee opined, “a judge’s participation in political activity on behalf of a candidate risks being perceived as a public endorsement of the candidate spouse, which is prohibited, and lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the interests of others.” A such, a judge whose spouse is running for office would be in violation of the Code is he/she attended any campaign events for the spouse.

A Judge May Appear In Their Spouses Campaign Materials and Website

The Committee opines that a judge’s photograph may be used in family photographs as long as the judge’s title or office is not mentioned. Further, the Committee opines that the materials cannot depict any visual elements identifying the judge as a judge and there cannot be any explicit endorsement of the spouse.

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