FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2005-11
Date of Issue: August 19, 2005

ISSUES

Whether a county court judge may teach at the local community college in the police academy.

ANSWER: Yes, as long as the teaching activities do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially, demean the judicial office, or interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties; and any compensation received from the teaching activities is reported in accordance with Canon 6 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

FACTS

The inquiring judge asks whether it is permissible to teach in the police academy at the local community college. The curriculum would include constitutional law; introduction to Florida Statutes; the criminal justice system in Florida; court procedures; and basic constitutional law, including search and seizure.

DISCUSSION

A majority of the Committee concludes that the judge may teach in the police academy at the local community college, as long as the teaching activities do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially, demean the judicial office, or interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties. A minority of the Committee believes that the inquiring judge may not teach in the police academy because to do so would violate Canon 2A. Canon 2A requires a judge to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. The minority believes that a criminal defendant might fear that the judge might not be impartial.

The majority concludes that the activity is permissible. Canon 4B of the code of Judicial Conduct states: “A judge is encouraged to speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other quasi-judicial activities concerning the law, the legal system, the administration of justice, and the role of the judiciary as an independent branch within our system of government, subject to the requirements of this code.” In Fla. JEAC Op. 81-3, the Committee concluded that a judge may teach at a university as long as it does not interfere with judicial duties.

In Fla. JEAC Op. 97-26, the Committee concluded that a judge could teach a leadership or church law course at an accredited religious university, as long as the teaching activities did not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially, demean the judicial office, or interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties; and any compensation received from the teaching activities was reported in accordance with Canon 6 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

A majority of the Committee concludes that teaching in the police academy would not violate Canon 2 by creating an appearance of impropriety. In prior opinions, the Committee has concluded that judges may teach or participate in functions sponsored by partisan legal groups or partisan groups. For instance, in Fla. JEAC Op. 87-3 and Fla. JEAC Op. 95-21, this Committee found no impropriety in a judge lecturing at a legal seminar sponsored in part by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers. Similarly in Fla. JEAC Op. 82-06, this Committee concluded that a judge could lecture to a group who, while not attorneys, were interested in landlord-tenant law.

The inquiring judge may accept the position to teach in the police academy at the local community college. The Committee cautions that the mandate of Canon 4B encouraging judges to engage in activity (including teaching) that concerns the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice is qualified by the language “subject to the requirements of this Code.” The inquiring judge should be careful not to answer hypothetical questions, not to comment on pending cases, and not to make remarks that could result in disqualification.

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 2A

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 4B

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 6

Fla. JEAC Op. 81-3

Fla. JEAC Op. 97-26

Fla. JEAC Op. 87-3

Fla. JEAC Op. 95-21

Fla JEAC Op. 82-06

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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 the judge or judicial candidate. Its opinions are advisory to the inquiring party, to the Judicial Qualifications Commission and 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 Qualifications 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 Marjorie Gadarian Graham, Esq., Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, 11211 Prosperity Farms Road, Oakpark, Suite D129, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410.

Participating Members:
Marjorie Gadarian Graham, Esq., Judge Robert Benton, Judge Karen Cole, Judge Lisa Davidson, Ervin A. Gonzalez, Esq., Judge Michael Raiden, Judge Jose M. Rodriguez, Judge Leslie B. Rothenberg, Judge McFerrin Smith, III, Judge Emerson R. Thompson, Jr., Judge Richard R. Townsend, Judge Dorothy Vaccaro.


Copies furnished to:
Justice Peggy Quince
All Committee Members
Executive Director of the J.Q.C.
Office of the State Courts Administrator
Inquiring Judge (Name of inquiring judge deleted from this copy)