Mark Brnovich is a candidate for Attorney General, recruited by McCain allies to challenge a conservative incumbent. Brnovich’s wife, Susan, is a Maricopa County Superior Court judge, appointed by Gov. Janet Napolitano in 2009. Although liberal Napolitano reserved her appointments for kindred spirits, Judge Brnovich’s problem has to do with ethical violations rather than her associations. Susan M. Skibba Brnovich has appeared in her husband’s political commercials (one such video is linked here), in which she is identified as a former prosecutor. That’s true. However as a judge, she is prohibited from such activities. She’s been on the bench long enough to have at least a passing knowledge of the Canons of Ethics. Her husband Mark, a candidate for the state’s top law enforcement post, who purports himself to be a devoted family man, should not have encouraged his wife to engage in such a violation.
The Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct is very clear in citing which political activities judges are permitted to engage in (Page 35).
A JUDGE OR CANDIDATE FOR JUDICIAL OFFICE SHALL NOT ENGAGE IN POLITICAL OR CAMPAIGN ACTIVITY THAT IS INCONSISTENT WITH THE INDEPENDENCE, INTEGRITY, OR IMPARTIALITY OF THE JUDICIARY.
RULE 4.1. Political and Campaign Activities of Judges and Judicial Candidates in General
(A) A judge or a judicial candidate shall not do any of the following:
(1) act as a leader in, or hold an office in, a political organization;
(2) make speeches on behalf of a political organization or another candidate for public office;
(3) publicly endorse or oppose another candidate for any public office;
(4) solicit funds for or pay an assessment to a political organization or candidate, make contributions to any candidate or political organization in excess of the amounts permitted by law, or make total contributions in excess of fifty percent of the cumulative total permitted by law. See, e.g., A.R.S. § 16-905.
(5) actively take part in any political campaign other than his or her own campaign for election, reelection or retention in office;
(6) personally solicit or accept campaign contributions other than through a campaign committee authorized by Rule 4.4;
(7) use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of the judge, the candidate, or others, except as provided by law;
(8) use court staff, facilities, or other court resources in a campaign for judicial office;
(9) make any statement that would reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court; or
(10) in connection with cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of judicial office.
Comment 7 (page 36) is specific regarding a family member’s political activity or campaign for public office.
7. Although members of the families of judges and judicial candidates are free to engage in their own political activity, including running for public office, there is no “family exception” to the prohibition in paragraph (A)(3) against a judge or candidate publicly endorsing candidates for public office. A judge or judicial candidate must not become involved in, or publicly associated with, a family member’s political activity or campaign for public office. To avoid public misunderstanding, judges and judicial candidates should take and should urge members of their families to take reasonable steps to avoid any implication that the judge or judicial candidate endorses any family member’s candidacy or other political activity.
It hasn’t escaped the notice of political watchers that Brnovich’s first quarter filings show his donations far below what would be expected from one recruited by establishment elites. It was filed in the late hours of the Jan. 31, deadline, no doubt hoping it might escape notice. He dropped $2,000 of the weak total into his own campaign coffers, and nearly $10,000 was donated by his in-laws, the Skibba family. In actual donations from supporters, many state legislative district candidates have far exceeded Brnovich’s statewide fundraising.