FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2003-21
Date of Issue: November 14, 2003

JUDGE SERVING ON THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF A COMMUNITY COLLEGE.

ISSUES

May a judge serve on the board of trustees of a community college?

ANSWER: No.

FACTS

The inquiring judge requests an opinion as to the propriety of serving on the Board of Trustees of a public community college. The judge asks the Committee to resolve an apparent conflict between the commentary to Canon 5C(2) and JEAC Op. 80-1.

DISCUSSION

The Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, in JEAC Op. 80-1, considered the issue of service on a trustee board of a community college and without discussion, reference to the Code, or other comment found no impropriety. This Committee finds that JEAC Op. 80-1 is inconsistent with Canon 5C(2) and its commentary. Therefore, this committee recedes from the 1980 opinion of the Committee on Standards Governing Judges.

Canon 5C(2) prohibits a judge from accepting an appointment to a governmental position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. A trustee of a public community college is appointed to a government position, is concerned with issues of fact or policy, and is not involved with matters related to the improvement of law, the legal system, or administration of justice.

Canon 5C(3) permits a judge to serve as a trustee of an educational organization, not conducted for profit, with certain limited exceptions. The apparent inconsistency between Canon 5C(3) and Canon 5C(2) is resolved by the commentary as follows:

Section 5C(2) does not govern a judge's service in a nongovernmental position. See section 5C(3) permitting service by a judge with educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, sororal, or civic organizations not conducted for profit. For example, service on the board of a public educational institution, unless it were a law school, would be prohibited under Section 5C(2), but service on the board of a public law school or any private educational institution would generally be permitted under Section 5C(3).

Therefore, Canon 5C permits a judge to be a trustee of a public law school or other public educational organization related to the law, the legal system, or administration of justice, but prohibits a judge from being a trustee of any other type of public educational institution. Although Canon 5C(3) allows a judge to be a trustee of an educational organization, the judge may do so only if the organization is a non-governmental, not for profit, entity and is otherwise not precluded by the specific limitations set forth in subsection 3.

For the reasons set forth above, the inquiring judge should not be a trustee of a community college.

REFERENCES

Canon 5C(2) and Canon 5C(3)

Fla. JEAC Op. 80-1

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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 Richard R. Townsend, Acting Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Post Office Box 1018, Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043.

Participating Members:
Judge Robert Benton, Judge Lisa Davidson, Judge Melanie May, Judge Jose Rodriguez, Judge McFerrin Smith, III, 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)