FLORIDA SUPREME COURT
JUDICIAL ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Opinion Number: 2000-19
Date of Issue: September 11, 2000
WHETHER A CANDIDATE FOR APPOINTMENT TO JUDICIAL OFFICE, WHO IS ALSO A CANDIDATE FOR ELECTION TO JUDICIAL OFFICE, MAY RAISE FUNDS THROUGH A COMMITTEE TO SUPPORT HIS CAMPAIGN?
Whether a candidate for appointment to judicial office, who is also a candidate for election to judicial office, may raise funds through a committee to support his campaign?
The inquiring attorney is a candidate for appointment to judicial office. He is also a candidate for election to judicial office in the same circuit. He asks whether he may, by himself, through a committee or otherwise, raise funds to support his election campaign?
Canon 7B(1) states that, "A candidate for appointment to judicial office or a judge seeking other governmental office shall not solicit or accept funds, personally or through a committee or otherwise, to support his or her candidacy."
Canon 7C(1) allows a judge and candidate for a judicial office that is filled by public election between competing candidates to establish committees to secure and manage the expenditure of funds for the candidate's campaign. Such committees are not prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions and public support from any person or corporation authorized by law.
The Committee finds that Canon 7B(1) should be construed as written, that a candidate for appointment cannot solicit or accept funds to support his or her candidacy, for the appointed position. However, if the attorney is also a candidate for an elective judicial office, then the attorney may establish a committee to secure and manage funds for the campaign, for the elective office. Any such funds raised must be raised through a committee, as the attorney cannot personally solicit campaign funds.
Therefore, the Committee finds that an attorney seeking appointment to a judicial position, through the judicial nominating process, is not precluded from simultaneously seeking a trial court judicial position through the election process when both situations are available. Although the attorney may not solicit funds for the appointed judicial position, he/she may solicit funds through a committee after opening a campaign account for an elective judicial position.
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, 130 West New York Avenue, DeLand, Florida, 32720.
Participating Members: Graham, Attorney at Law, Judges C. Kahn, L. Kahn, Kotey, Levy, Silverman, Smith, Swartz, Thompson and Townsend.Copies furnished to: