-- PENDING -- Advisory Opinion NO

QUESTION PRESENTED

Does an elected Superior Court Judge have the authority to raise funds, deposit the funds into their campaign account and expend the funds to defray the legal fees incurred in the official capacity as a sitting Superior Court Judge?

Advisory Opinion Draft

ADVISORY OPINION

Advisory Opinion C.F.C. 2013-04 – DRAFT RESPONSE

The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (the “Commission”) has received the following request for advisory opinion from DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Mark Anthony Scott (Request No. 2013-04).
Question Presented – No. 2013-04
Whether a Superior Court Judge may raise funds, deposit them into his campaign account, and expend them to defray legal defense costs incurred in his official capacity as a sitting Superior Court Judge.
Advisory Opinion
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act (the “Act”) provides that
Contributions to a candidate…shall be utilized only to defray ordinary and necessary expenses…incurred in connection with such candidate’s campaign for elective office or such public officer’s fulfillment or retention of such office.
See O.C.G.A. § 21-5-33(a).
Under Article 1, the Act defines “ordinary and necessary expenses” as including, but not limited to
expenditures made during the reporting period for office costs and rent, lodging, equipment, travel, advertising, postage, staff salaries, consultants, file storage, polling, special events, volunteers, reimbursements to volunteers, repayment of any loans received except as restricted under subsection (i) of Code Section 21-5-41, contributions to nonprofit organizations, and flowers for special occasions, which shall include, but are not limited to, birthdays and funerals, and all other expenditures contemplated in Code Section 21-5-33.
See O.C.G.A. § 21-5-3(18).
While legal fees are not explicitly listed in the Act’s definition of ordinary and necessary expenses, there are instances where such expenditures could be an “ordinary and necessary expense” in connection with a public officer’s fulfillment of office. Here, Judge Scott was served with a Writ of Mandamus and Motion for Immediate Interlocutory Injunction filed in direct response to an Order he issued in his capacity as a DeKalb County Superior Court Judge.
The Commission finds that a Superior Court Judge may raise funds, deposit them into his campaign account, and expend them to defray legal defense costs incurred in defense of a Writ of Mandamus and Motion for Immediate Interlocutory Injunction filed in direct response to an Order issued in his capacity as a DeKalb County Superior Court Judge. However, any such contributions and expenditures must be made and disclosed in conformity with the requirements of the Act.

Prepared by Jonathan Hawkins.
March 6, 2014.


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