In a recent order, the Michigan Supreme Court has clarified which activities are allowed or prohibited under the Code of Judicial Conduct. The order zeroes in specifically on fund raising, strengthening the language prohibiting a judge from individually soliciting funds (noting that the prohibition applies equally to law-related and nonlaw-related activities), but making clear that a judge may engage in certain activities, such as allowing the use of the judge's name in support of an event. The prohibition against a judge accepting a testimonial has also been removed.
The most significant changes are to the language of Canons 4 and 5, which are now combined into one canon. Canon 4D, entitled "Fundraising Activities" indicates that a judge may not individually solicit funds for any organization, including organizations "devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice... ." However, it adds that a judge may "allow his or her name or title to be used in advertising the judge's involvement in an event so long as the judge does not individually solicit funds."
As the staff comment indicates, nearly all of the language in the canons was retained, and the new language was designed to more clearly describe the types of activities that are allowed or prohibited "which until now had been undefined and therefore the source of confusion."
The amendments take effect on Sept. 1, 2013.