FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2004-17
Date of Issue: May 26, 2004

ISSUES

Whether a judge can be interviewed by a textbook publisher who is creating for website publication an educational video designed to educate students about the criminal justice system.

ANSWER: Yes.

FACTS

The inquiry is from a judge who has been asked to participate in an interview for a textbook publisher. The publisher is conducting a series of interviews of professionals in the criminal justice system. The information obtained will be provided to students via a website. The goal is to offer insight into the challenges, rewards and realities of working in the criminal justice system. The areas to be covered during the inquiring judge's interview include, but are not limited to: judicial ethics, evidence, speedy trial, probation and the career path to the bench. There will be no compensation for the judge's interview and participation in this project.

DISCUSSION

A judge is encouraged to participate in advocational activities to the extent that time permits. Canon 4A indicates that:

A judge shall conduct all of the judge's quasi-judicial activities so that they do not:

(1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge;
(2) demean the judicial office; or
(3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties.

The interview by the publisher does not appear to be precluded by any of the foregoing restrictions on quasi-judicial activities.

According to 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 the Code. As indicated in the commentary to this canon, a judge is in the unique position to contribute to the improvement of the law, the legal system and the administration of justice. Participation in an interview intended to educate students about the challenges, rewards and realities of working in the criminal justice will undoubtedly contribute to the improvement of the law by providing accurate information and will promote the integrity of the legal profession.

REFERENCES

Florida Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 4A

Florida Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 4B

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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 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
Thomas D. Hall, Clerk of Supreme Court
All Committee Members
Executive Director of the J.Q.C.
Office of the State Courts Administrator
(Name of inquiring judge deleted from this copy)