2009-574
Created By: Kathleen Allen on 05/29/2009 at 10:37 AM
Category: Campaign Finance Advisory Opinions
Caption: An advisory opinion concerning judges using campaign funds to pay for costs associated with attending seminars and conferences.
Dismissed Document:

May 29, 2009


R. Gray Sexton
10715 N. Oak Hills Parkway
Baton Rouge, LA 70810

Re: Ethics Board Docket No. 2009-574

Dear Mr. Sexton:

The Louisiana Board of Ethics, at its May 27, 2009 meeting, considered your request for an advisory opinion as to the propriety of your client, Judge Kay Bates, using campaign funds to pay for costs associated with attending seminars and conferences. You stated that judges are required by the Louisiana Supreme Court and the Code of Judicial Conduct to attend at least 12 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses annually. Sponsors of CLE seminars are required to submit the agendas for the proposed programs to the Louisiana Supreme Courts Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Committee for accreditation. You also stated that, often, the CLE seminars take place out-of-town or out-of-state necessitating an expenditure of funds for travel and lodging in addition to tuition. Furthermore, you stated that it is a duty incumbent on judges to interact on a regular basis with members of the Louisiana State Bar Association.

R.S. 18:1505.2I provides that campaign funds may be expended for any lawful purpose, but shall not be used for any personal use, unrelated to the campaign or the holding of public office. Also, Part G, Section 1 of the Rules of Supreme Court of Louisiana provides for the reimbursement of travel expenses of judges for meetings, including travel, lodging and registration fees. The term “meeting” is defined as a “legal seminar, legal convention, judicial business meeting, and ceremonial or other functions attended by a judge in a judicial capacity away from his or her court.”

With respect to each of your following questions, the Board concluded, and instructed me to inform you as to the following:

1. Does R.S. 18:1505.2I(1) permit state judges to use their campaign funds to pay for tuition to attend CLE seminars accredited by the Mandatory CLE Committee, whether the seminars are in-town, out-of-town, or out-of-state?

The Campaign Finance Disclosure Act (CFDA) would permit the expenditure of campaign funds to pay for the tuition costs for state judges to attend CLE seminars, provided the amount of the reimbursement is not more than the amount determined and approved by the Louisiana Supreme Court to be reasonable.

2. Does R.S. 18:1505.2I(1) permit state judges to use their campaign funds to pay for reasonable travel and lodging expenses to attend CLE seminars accredited by the Mandatory CLE Committee, whether the seminars are out-of-town or out-of-state?

The CFDA would permit the expenditure of campaign funds to pay for the transportation and lodging costs for state judges to attend CLE seminars, provided the amount of the reimbursement is not more than the amount determined and approved by the Louisiana Supreme Court to be reasonable.

3. Does R.S. 18:1505.2I(1) permit state judges to use their campaign funds to pay for tuition to attend LSBA-sponsored events, even if the events might not include accredited CLE programs, in order to fulfill their duty to interact on a regular basis with the LSBA and its members, whether the events are out-of-town or out-of-state?

If the LSBA-sponsored event would constitute a “meeting” as defined by Part G, Section 1 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, the CFDA would permit the expenditure of campaign funds to pay for the tuition costs for the state judges to attend the LSBA-sponsored event, provided the amount of the reimbursement is not more than the amount determined and approved by the Louisiana Supreme Court to be reasonable.

4. Does R.S. 18:1505.2I(1) permit state judges to use their campaign funds to pay for reasonable travel and lodging expenses to attend LSBA-sponsored events, even if the events might not include accredited CLE programs, in order to fulfill their duty to interact on a regular tuition to attend CLE seminars accredited by the MCLE Committee, whether the seminars are in-town, out-of-town, or out-of-state?

If the LSBA-sponsored event would constitute a “meeting” as defined by Part G, Section 1 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, the CFDA would permit the expenditure of campaign funds to pay for the travel and lodging costs for the state judges to attend the LSBA-sponsored event, the amount of the reimbursement is not more than the amount determined and approved by the Louisiana Supreme Court to be reasonable.

If your client has a specific question about the use of campaign funds for the specific costs associated with a particular event or seminar, an additional opinion can be requested from the Board. Said request should provide the specific facts concerning the expenditures to be made and the event/seminar to be attended.
The Board issues no opinion as to laws other than the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 219-5600.

Sincerely,

LOUISIANA BOARD OF ETHICS



Kathleen M. Allen
For the Board

EB:KMA

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