FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2004-36
Date of Issue: December 8, 2004

ISSUES

May a judge directly solicit funds from the public on behalf of a non-profit organization where the identity of the judge is unknown and/or disguised?

ANSWER: No.

FACTS

The inquiring judge is a member of a local non-profit organization that volunteers to ring a bell at the Salvation Army kettle in front of shopping centers to obtain donations for a worthy cause. The judge would be disguised in a holiday character costume; the judge's identity would not be revealed; and no one other than the member who scheduled the fund-raising event would know the true identity of the inquiring judge.

DISCUSSION

Canon 5C(3)(b)(i), Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, provides that a judge "may assist such an organization [non-profit] in planning fund-raising...., but the judge may not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fundraising activities, except the judge may solicit funds from judges over whom the judge does not have supervisory or appellate authority." Therefore, pursuant to the clear language of the Code, the judge cannot personally participate in soliciting funds whether or not the identity of the judge is revealed.

This committee has previously addressed a similar issue. In Fla. JEAC Op. 00-17, this Committee opined that a judge could not actively participate in a school fundraising activity by working in a concession stand, unless the role performed in the concession stand did not involve active solicitation of funds or selling food. A majority of this Committee would limit Fla. JEAC Op. 00-17 to situations where the judge is actively soliciting funds. Thus, a supportive role, such as planning the fundraiser, scheduling the bellringers, or collecting the funds from the bellringer would be permissible.

Two members disagree and suggest that the Code would not prohibit the proposed activity because the Code encourages extrajudicial activities in the community and the identity of the judge is not known.

REFERENCES

Canon 5C(3)(b)(i), Fla. Code Jud. Conduct

Fla. JEAC Op. 00-17

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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 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 Melanie May, Judge Michael Raiden, Judge Jose Rodriguez, Judge McFerrin Smith, III, Judge Emerson R. Thompson, Jr., Judge Richard R. Townsend, Judge Dorothy Vaccaro, 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)