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Official Opinion 96-9

Official Opinion 96-9

May 20, 1996
To: 

Chief Justice
Supreme Court of Georgia

Re: 

Candidates for election to statewide judicial office are not required to file with the Secretary of State the expanded financial disclosure forms outlined in O.C.G.A. ¿ 21-5-50(c).

You have requested my opinion as to whether candidates for statewide judicial office must file the additional, expanded financial disclosure forms required under O.C.G.A. � 21-5-50(c). It is my official opinion that such candidates do not have to file these additional disclosure forms.

As a portion of the Ethics in Government Act, the General Assembly has provided for the filing of financial disclosure statements by candidates for public office and for incumbent public officials. O.C.G.A. § 21-5-50 et seq. Specifically, under O.C.G.A. § 21-5-50(a)(1) each public officer listed in O.C.G.A. § 21-5-3(15)(A)-(E) must file with the Secretary of State within certain defined time periods a financial disclosure form. These officials include:

(A) Every constitutional officer;

(B) Every elected state official;

(C) The executive head of every state department or agency, whether elected or appointed;

(D) Each member of the General Assembly;

(E) The executive director of each state board or authority and members thereof.

O.C.G.A. § 21-5-3(15)(A)-(E). Members of the Supreme Court are, of course, both constitutional officers and elected state officials. Ga. Const. 1983, Art. VI, Sec. VI, Para. I; Ga. Const. 1983, Art. VI, Sec. VII, Para. I.

The financial statement required under this portion of the statute is outlined under O.C.G.A. § 21-5-50(b). It requires specific disclosure of monetary fees and honorariums, information on fiduciary positions held, information on businesses in which the candidate or officer holds a specific ownership or investment interest, information on certain types of real property, and information on payments which might be received by the candidate or official. O.C.G.A. § 21-5-50(b)(1)-(6).

However, the Ethics in Government Act also provides this additional disclosure requirement for persons who qualify as candidates for statewide elected office.

Each person who qualifies with a political party as a candidate for party nomination to a public office elected state wide (including an incumbent public officer elected state wide qualifying to succeed himself) shall file with the Secretary of State, not later than seven days after so qualifying, a financial disclosure statement. Each person who qualifies as a candidate for election to a public office elected state wide through a nomination petition or convention shall likewise file a financial disclosure statement not later than seven days after filing his notice of candidacy.

O.C.G.A. § 21-5-50(c)(1) (emphasis added). By the terms of this statute itself, therefore, it applies only to candidates for statewide public office who qualify through a political party, a nomination petition or through a convention. For those covered individuals, the financial disclosure statement required under this portion of the Act includes the information required under O.C.G.A. § 21-5-50(b), as well as requiring the extensive disclosures outlined in O.C.G.A. § 21-5-50(c)(1)-(3).

Given that the Justices of the Supreme Court, as well as the Judges of the Court of Appeals, are elected on a statewide basis, the question presented here is whether those judges are subject to the additional disclosure requirements of O.C.G.A. § 21-5-50(c). The judges of these courts are elected statewide on a nonpartisan basis. Ga. Const. 1983, Art. VI, Sec. VII, Para. I. They qualify to run in nonpartisan primaries and elections with the Secretary of State and not with a political party. O.C.G.A. § 21-2-132(b), (b.1); O.C.G.A. § 21-2-138. "No candidates for any such [nonpartisan] office shall be nominated by a political party or by a petition as a candidate of a political body or as an independent candidate." O.C.G.A. § 21-2-138. There is no provision permitting the nomination of a judge for these courts through the convention process. O.C.G.A. § 21-2-172; O.C.G.A. § 21-2-187.

As such, it is clear that by the very terms of O.C.G.A. § 21-5-50(c), the additional disclosure requirements outlined in that statutory provision are not applicable to judges elected statewide. Therefore, it is my official opinion that candidates for election to statewide judicial office are not required to file with the Secretary of State the expanded financial disclosure forms outlined in O.C.G.A. § 21-5-50(c).

Prepared by:

DENNIS R. DUNN
Senior Assistant Attorney General