FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2003-15
Date of Issue: October 15, 2003

JUDGE SOLICITING FUNDS FROM FELLOW JUDGES.

ISSUES

1. May a judge solicit funds on behalf of a law school alumni association from fellow judges within the Judicial Circuit?

ANSWER: Yes, if the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority over the fellow judges.

2. May the results of the solicitation be published to encourage others to contribute?

ANSWER: No, if the purpose of the publication is to use the prestige of judicial office to encourage others to contribute.

FACTS

The inquiring circuit judge has been a long time member of a law school alumni association and, after becoming a judge, has served in an advisory non-fundraising capacity. The judge contemplates soliciting funds from other judges within the circuit. The judge further contemplates publishing the results of the solicitation in order to encourage others to contribute.

DISCUSSION

Pursuant to Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, a judge may serve as a non-legal advisor of an educational or charitable organization, not conducted for profit, subject to certain limitations. A judge as a non-legal advisor or member of the organization may assist in planning fundraising, but should not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund raising activities. The only exception to the prohibition against solicitation of funds is if the judge solicits funds from other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority.

Therefore, a circuit judge may not solicit funds from a county judge because by law the circuit judge is vested with appellate authority over the county judge, even if the judge at that time may not be exercising that authority. Likewise, a circuit judge may not solicit funds from another circuit judge if the judge is in any manner supervising the other circuit judge. For example, the chief judge of a circuit may not solicit funds from any judges within the circuit and an administrative judge of a division may not solicit funds from another judge within that division.

Publication of the results of the solicitation for the purpose of encouraging others to contribute is an improper use of the prestige of judicial office for fund raising, contrary to the provisions of Canon 5(C)(3)(b)(iii), Code of Judicial Conduct. This Committee is aware that many non-profit organizations publish lists of donors in an annual report. This recognition of donors is not improper unless it is at the direction of the judicial advisor, or is intended to use the prestige of judicial office to encourage others to contribute.

REFERENCES

Florida Code of Judicial Conduct: Canon 5

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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 Phyllis D. Kotey, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Eighth Judicial Circuit, Alachua County Courthouse, 201 East University Avenue, Room 205, Gainesville, Florida 32601.

Participating Members:
Judge Robert Benton, Judge Karen Cole, Judge Lisa Davidson, Judge Phyllis Kotey, Judge Melanie May, Judge Jose Rodriguez, Judge McFerrin Smith, III, Judge Jeffrey D. Swartz, Judge Emerson R. Thompson, Jr. Judge Richard R. Townsend, , Ervin Gonzalez, Esquire, and 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)