FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

JUDICIAL ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Opinion Number: 2001-07
Date of Issue: April 26, 2001

ISSUES

MAY A JUDGE WITH SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE SERVE ON THE BOARD OF ADVISORS FOR A PROFESSIONAL REFERENCE PUBLICATION DEDICATED TO THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AND THE MENTALLY ILL?

ANSWER: Yes.

FACTS

The inquiring judge presides over a mental health court. The judge has been requested by a private publisher that specializes in professional reference publications in the area of criminal justice, mental health, and related social sciences to serve on the Board of Advisors and Contributors for a new publication dedicated to the criminal justice system and the mentally ill. The publisher anticipates that the Board of Advisors will consist of a group of leaders in the field who will provide input and feedback to the publisher on articles published. The board members will receive no compensation, and the publication will include no advertisements or sponsors. The publication will focus on subjects related to criminal justice intervention for persons with mental illness who become entangled in the justice system. The publication will also include updates on recent legal decisions and on newly developed programs for dealing with mental health issues in the criminal justice system.

DISCUSSION

The proposed activity is permissible under both Canon 4 and Canon 5. Numerous prior opinions of this Committee have allowed judges to participate in the authorship of publications related to the practice of law and improvement of the legal system. See Fla. JEAC Ops. 99-14, 95-37, 88-14, 83-07, 82-05, and 76-17. Prior opinions have also looked favorably upon teaching-related activities. See Fla. JEAC Ops. 92-45, 82-06, 81-03, 77-14, 76-21, 75-28, and 72-17. These opinions rely primarily on Canon 4B: "A judge may speak, write, lecture, teach, and participate in other quasi-judicial activities concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, subject to the requirements of this Code." To the extent that serving on the board in question might involve non-legal subjects, the activity is nonetheless allowed by Canon 5B: "A judge may speak, write, lecture, teach, and participate in other extrajudicial activities concerning non-legal subjects, subject to the requirements of this Code."

The proposed activity is permitted. Because the publication in question will be an on-going periodical, however, the judge must keep track of the contents of the publication to ensure compliance with Canons 4A and 5A, as well as other applicable sections of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

REFERENCES

Code of Judicial Conduct: Canons 4, 4A, 4B, 5 and 5A.

Florida JEAC Opinions: 99-14, 95-37, 92-45, 88-14, 83-07, 82-06, 82-05, 81-3, 77-14, 76-21, 76-17, 75-28, and 72-17.

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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 Judge Charles J. Kahn, Jr., Chairman, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, 301 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1850

Participating Members:
Judge Charles J. Kahn, Jr.
Judge Gisela Cardonne
Judge Lisa D. Kahn
Judge Phyllis D. Kotey
Judge David Levy
Judge Scott J. Silverman
Judge Jeffrey D. Swartz
Judge Richard R. Townsend
Marjorie Gadarian Graham, Esquire

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)