FLORIDA SUPREME COURT
JUDICIAL ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Opinion Number: 2000-09
Date of Issue: April 12, 2000
Whether a judge may serve on the Board of Directors of the Collins Center for Public Policy, Inc., a not for profit corporation?
The inquiring judge asks whether he may serve on the Board of Directors for the Collins Center for Public Policy, Inc. The Collins Center for Public Policy is an independent, non-partisan and non-profit organization which promotes, through thought and action, creative solutions to major private and public issues facing the people of Florida and the nation. Among others these include crime and prisons, constitutional review, public representation in the Florida Legislature, greater participation by African-Americans in Dade County's tourism industry, political campaign ethics, citizen participation in public decision, neighborhood community economic development, and hurricane catastrophic insurance. The Florida Board of Regents recognizes it as a research center which serves all state universities.
The Collins Center is supported from an endowment fund and receives grants from individuals, business organizations, private foundations and, for specific projects, from the Florida Legislature. The inquiring judge would not be involved in any fundraising aspects of the organization.
Canon 5 permits a judge to serve as an officer, director, trustee or non- legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, sororal or civic organization. The Code restricts a judge from such service if it is likely that the organization will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge or will be engaged frequently in adversary proceedings in the court of which the judge is a member. Canon 5D(1)(a) & (b). There is no indication that the Collins Center would fall into this type of limitation. However, if it does then the inquiring judge will have to re-examine his association with this organization.
In Opinion 94-11, the Committee found that the inquiring judge could serve as the President of the Community Foundations for Palm Beach and Martin counties, with the caveat that "you avoid personally soliciting funds or allowing the prestige of your office to be used for that purpose." The Community Foundation was a private, non-profit organization providing grants, scholarships, addressing the needs of children, education, art, health, social services and conservation of historical and cultural resources. The Committee finds that the inquiring judge may serve on the Board of Directors of the Collins Center of Public Policy, as long as the judge does not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fundraising activities. Canon 5C(3)(b)(i).
Florida Code of Judicial Conduct Canons 5, 5D(1)(a) & (b), and 5C(3)(b)(i).
Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinion: 94-11.
The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee is expressly charged with rendering advisory opinions interpreting the application of the Code of Judicial Conduct to specific circumstances confronting or affecting a judge or judicial candidate. Its opinions are advisory to the inquiring party, to the Judicial Qualifications Commission and to the judiciary at large. Conduct that is consistent with an advisory opinion issued by the Committee may be evidence of good faith on the part of the judge, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions by the Committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, 698 So.2d 834 (Fla. 1997). However, in reviewing the recommendations of the Judicial Qualification Commission for discipline, the Florida Supreme Court will consider conduct in accordance with a Committee opinion as evidence of good faith. Id.
For further information, contact The Honorable C. McFerrin Smith, III, Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, DeLand Jail Building, 130 West New York Avenue, DeLand, Florida, 32720.
Participating Members: Graham, Attorney at Law and Judges Cardonne, C. Kahn, L. Kahn, Kotey, Levy, Rodriguez, Silverman, Smith, Swartz and Thompson.Copies furnished to: