NOVEMBER 21, 2008
Utah’s chief federal judge won’t be disciplined for violating the Judicial Code of Conduct by making several contributions to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
Although Judge Tena Campbell violated Canon 7 of the Code of Conduct for United States judges, she will face no consequences for her unruly behavior. Judge Campbell, a Bill Clinton appointee, gave multiple donations of $100 and $200 to Obama’s campaign in mid 2007.
The Judicial Code specifically prohibits federal judges from making contributions to political organizations or candidates as well as demonstrative political activity. When a Utah newspaper broke the story in late October, Judge Campbell said she thought she was prohibited only from taking public action supporting a candidate and not from making donations.
Federal Election Commission disclosures of her Obama contributions list Judge Campbell’s profession as a lawyer and her employer the government. When the donations were made public by the media, the Obama campaign returned the money and the Tenth Circuit Judicial Council, which hears complaints against the region’s federal judges, launched an investigation.
In his decision not to take disciplinary action, Chief Judge Robert Henry acknowledges that Judge Campbell’s political donations were unethical but, at the time, she believed they were permissible. He further writes in the three-page ruling that Judge Campbell has agreed not to make similar contributions in the future and that she took “appropriate voluntary corrective action that acknowledges and remedies” the complaint.
The chief judge for the Tenth Judicial Circuit evidently bought an argument that many Americans may find tough to swallow; that a state’s top federal jurist, who spent years as a county and federal prosecutor before getting her lifetime bench appointment, truly didn’t know the rules that govern her prestigious job.
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