Misconduct charge dropped for judge's donation

Published November 19, 2008 5:07 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah's chief federal judge, Tena Campbell, will not face punishment for breaking the rules by donating to Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Because she admitted the error, promised to stop donating to candidates and publicly apologized, she will not face any serious sanction, according to Robert H. Henry, chief justice of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Henry dropped a charge of judicial misconduct on Nov. 11, in a dismissal order that doesn't name Campbell, but the series of events it describes matches her case. The order also sheds new light on how she handled the violation once it was made public by The Salt Lake Tribune.

In late October, The Tribune reported that Campbell donated a total of $300 to Obama's campaign in 2007, listing her address as her district court chambers, her job as "lawyer" and her employer as "govtt."

These donations violated the Judicial Code of Conduct's 7th canon, which prohibits judges from participating in political activities, since they are expected to be apolitical.

The next day Campbell issued an apology through her clerk, saying: "It certainly is no excuse but until approximately one year ago I was not aware that a judge could not make private contributions to a political campaign. I mistakenly believed that the rule only precluded a judge from taking public action in support of a political candidate. I regret that my donations caused an appearance of impropriety."

The dismissal order states that Campbell then reported the campaign contributions directly to Henry, saying she made four political contributions since being appointed to the federal bench by President Clinton in 1995. Henry issued the misconduct charge on Oct. 25, opening up an inquiry.

Since then, Campbell wrote to the Obama campaign and asked for her contributions to be returned, according to the court order. A campaign spokeswoman previously told The Tribune that they would send back the $300.

Henry talked to Campbell through e-mail and in a "personal conversation" to remind her of "our obligation to avoid political activity," the order said. He also sent a memo to all judges in the circuit reminding them of the code of conduct.

Campbell "indicated the materials I sent were read and understood, and that no similar contributions would be made in the future," Henry wrote.

Henry dismissed the misconduct charge because Campbell took "appropriate voluntary corrective action."


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