FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

JUDICIAL ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Opinion Number: 2000-10
Date of Issue: April 13, 2000

WHETHER A SENIOR JUDGE MAY SEND THE ENCLOSED ANNOUNCEMENT OF HIS AVAILABILITY TO SERVE, AS A WEBSITE ON THE INTERNET, TO BE SENT TO CHIEF JUDGES IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA?

ISSUE

Whether a senior judge may send the enclosed announcement of his availability to serve, as a website on the internet, to be sent to Chief Judges in the State of Florida?
ANSWER:
Yes, but with an edited announcement. Canon 4A(2).

FACTS

The announcement, reads at the top: "Have Gavel Will Travel" with a picture of the judge standing in front of a convertible sports car, which is parked in front of a building, which looks like a Courthouse.

The text below the picture states: "I'm available on short notice to try Circuit Court cases including complex civil litigation and capital cases ...", followed by his years of service, experience as an adjunct professor, several bar admissions, and being the first judge "to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco."

DISCUSSION

The inquiring judge may inform Chief judges of the judge's availability to serve on short notice. The judge notes that after setting aside large blocks of times to try cases, they have resolved. After the judge has declined other work, it is difficult to re-schedule cases on short notice. It is permissible to announce the judge's schedule to other Chief Judges, who are the only ones who can schedule a senior judge for trials.

However, the Committee is of the opinion that Canon 4A applies: "A judge shall conduct all of the judge's quasi-judicial activities so that they do not ... "(2) demean the judicial office." The announcement falls in the category of quasi-judicial. The announcement should delete the following: the headline with the words: "Have gavel will travel," the picture, and the last sentence: "I'm also the first judge to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco. None of these three items have anything to do with the judge's qualifications or availability with reference to schedule, and would probably be perceived as demeaning the judicial office.

REFERENCES

Florida Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 4A(2).

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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:
Justice Peggy Quince
All Committee Members
All Members of the J.Q.C.
Office of the State Courts Administrator (Name of inquiring judge deleted from this copy)