FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2003-17
Date of Issue: July 31, 2003

A JUDGE MAY SERVE AS A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS ON A PUBLIC POLICY INSTITUTE.

ISSUES

Whether a judge may serve as a member of the board of directors on a public policy institute.

ANSWER: Yes.

FACTS

The inquiring Judge has been asked to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of a Public Policy Institute. The mission of the Institute is "[t]o give the community a sense of hope and optimism by creating a broad base of community involvement in identifying, researching and establishing dialogue on community-wide issues, and then recommending and helping to implement timely solutions." The objectives of the Institute are:

To provide formal and informal networks for individuals to come together to share their knowledge, resources and experiences.

To periodically identify short-term community projects that can be accomplished in a 4-12 month period with meaningful results.

To provide a process where community leaders can work through problems, and participate in open discussions (conferences and seminars).

To involve a broad range of individuals in the process, to generate dynamic, creative and catalytic leadership in addressing each critical issue and to provide "stay-in-place" solutions.

To create a shared sense of community, in that any issue must be addressed, discussed, and debated in an atmosphere of mutual fairness, respect, civility and sincerity to all others - where the highest aspiration is to serve the common good.

Included within the listed "Powers and Duties of Officers" is the responsibility "for community fund raising of the Institute." No similar requirement is listed under the responsibilities of the Board of Directors.

DISCUSSION

In Fla. JEAC Op. 00-09, this Committee addressed an identical issue, and answered the question in the affirmative. Canon 5, C(3), of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct provides that: "A judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, sororal or civic organization not conducted for profit, subject to the following limitations and the other requirements of this Code." Thus, the Code specifically provides for judges to serve on boards such as the Institute as long as it is not conducted for profit. See also Fla. JEAC Ops. 03-1, 02-17, 99-07, 98-26, 98-9, and 98-2.

Canon 5C(3)(b)(i) further permits a judge to "assist such an organization in planning fund-raising and [the judge] may participate in the management and investment of the organization's funds, but shall not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities, except that a judge may solicit funds from other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority." However, the judge "shall not use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising or membership solicitation." See Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 5, C(c)(f)(iii).

Thus, the judge cannot become directly involved in fund-raising.

Canon 4 also permits judges to engage in "activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice." According to the mission statement and objectives outlined in the Bylaws of the Public Policy Institute, participation on the Board of Directors may advance the legal system and administration of justice.

Therefore, we believe that participation on the board of directors of the Public Policy Institute is permitted by the Code of Judicial Conduct. We answer the inquiry in the affirmative.

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 4 and 5C(c).
Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions: 03-1, 02-17, 99-07, 98-26, 98-9, 98-2.

_____________

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 Lisa Davidson, Judge Charles J. Kahn, Jr., Judge Phyllis Kotey, Judge Melanie May, Judge Jose Rodriguez, Judge Scott Silverman, 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)