The judicial campaign ethics online course offered by the Judicial Council’s Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER) is available here.

Who is Required Take the Course?

Canon 5B(3) of the California Code of Judicial Ethics requires every candidate for judicial office to complete a judicial campaign ethics course approved by the Supreme Court unless the judge is unopposed for election, will not appear on the ballot, and does not form a campaign committee or solicit or receive campaign contributions.  This requirement does not apply to appellate justices unless the justice forms a campaign committee or solicits or receives campaign contributions.

Rule 8.2(b) of the California Rules of Professional Conduct provides that a lawyer who is a candidate for judicial office in California shall comply with canon 5, including the judicial campaign ethics course requirement.

Timing of Course Completion

A candidate for judicial office must complete the campaign ethics course no earlier than one year before or no later than 60 days after the first of one of the following events:

  • The filing of a declaration of intention by the candidate;
  • The formation of a campaign committee; or
  • The receipt of any campaign contribution.

If a judge appears on the ballot as a result of a petition indicating that a write-in campaign will be conducted, the judge has 60 days after receiving the notice of the filing of the petition, the formation of a campaign committee, or the receipt of any campaign contribution to complete the judicial campaign ethics course, whichever is earliest.

The following CJEO Formal Opinions also advise on matters that are relevant to judicial campaigns:

CJEO Formal Opinion 2019-013 (2019), Disclosure of Campaign Contributions by Trial Court Judges

Advises trial court judges on their campaign contribution disclosure obligations during and following a judicial campaign.  A trial court judge must disclose a campaign contribution of $100 or more from a party, lawyer, or law office or firm in a matter before the judge. Contributions of $100 or more from a witness or other person whose credibility the judge will evaluate and other campaign-related assistance may also warrant disclosure. The disclosure must include the contributor’s or lender’s name, the amount and date of each contribution or loan, and the cumulative amount of the contributions or loans. It must be made on the record and avoid creating an appearance that the judge is soliciting campaign contributions. A judge should begin making relevant campaign contribution disclosures no later than one week after a judge receives his or her first campaign contribution and continue to disclose for at least two years after the judge is sworn in or receives the last contribution, whichever is later.

CJEO Formal Opinion 2016-008 (2016), Attending Political Fundraising or Endorsement Events

Advises judges on how to decide whether to attend, speak, or appear as the guest of honor or receive an award at a political fundraising or endorsement event.  A judge may be introduced and speak on their own behalf or on behalf of another candidate for judicial office, so long as the judge does not commit to a position on an issue that is likely to come before the courts and the judge does not endorse or solicit funds for a candidate for nonjudicial office or for a political organization.  A judge who accepts a personal invitation to attend a political fundraising or endorsement event should also make reasonable efforts to ensure that his or her judicial title will not be used to promote the event, including informing promoters in advance of the ethical restrictions or reviewing promotional materials.

CJEO Formal Opinion 2013-003 (2013), Disqualification Based on Judicial Campaign Contributions from a “Lawyer in the Proceeding”

Advises that Code of Civil Procedure section 170.1, subdivision (a)(9)(A) requires a judge to disqualify himself or herself if the judge receives a contribution in excess of $1,500 from an individual lawyer in the proceeding.  The statute does not require that the judge disqualify himself or herself when a lawyer in the proceeding practices law with other lawyers who, collectively, made campaign contributions in excess of $1,500 or where the lawyer’s law firm made a campaign contribution that exceeds $1,500.  The judge should still consider whether aggregated contributions from a group of lawyers or a law firm might cause a reasonable person to doubt the judge’s impartiality for purposes of discretionary disqualification.