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March 11, 1996

 

 

Honorable Annabelle Clinton Imber
Chancery and Probate Judge, Sixth Division,
Sixth Judicial Circuit
Pulaski County Courthouse
401 West Markham Suite 360
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201

RE: Advisory Opinion # 96-02

Dear Judge Imber:

In your letter of February 21, 1996, you put the following question to the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee:

If a judicial candidate is unopposed in both the primary election and the general election, when should the candidate's campaign committee cease soliciting campaign contributions?

Your letter notes that the primary election will be held on May 21, 1996, and the general election will be held on November 5, 1996. Your further note that a candidate for judicial office in the current year must file either by April 2, as a party candidate, or by May 1, as an independent candidate.

Citing Canon 5(C)(2) of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct, you point out that Canon 5(C)(2) does not refer to filing deadlines, but specifically refers to elections and, hence, that Athe campaign committee for an unopposed candidate in both the primary and general elections should be allowed to solicit campaign contributions up until 45 days after the primary election@.

Canon 5(C)(2) provides in part:
a candidate's committee may solicit contributions and public support for the candidate's campaign no earlier than 180 days before a primary election and no later than 45 days after the last contested election in which the candidate participates during the election year. Funds received prior to the 180 day limitation or after the 45 day limitation shall be returned to the contributor.

The use of the term Acontested election obviously creates an ambiguity where it develops that the candidate is unopposed in the primary election. A literal reading of Canon 5(C)(2) suggests solicitations should end on May 1, if no opponent emerges, since at that point there is no Acontested election@. However, that is not spelled out and is not, of necessity, inferred. Such an interpretation would more narrowly construe the Canon than was, we believe, reasonably intended.

On that basis, we conclude that, without conflicting with the language of Canon 5, a campaign committee of a candidate for judicial office who is unopposed in the primary election may solicit contributions for 45 days after the filing deadline for party candidates or independent candidates, whichever is later, and in the instance is May 1, 1996.

Yours very truly,

 

Steele Hays
For the Committee

Edwin Alderson and Howard W. Brill concur.

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