FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2005-13
Date of Issue: September 16, 2005

ISSUES

May a judge attend legal seminars sponsored by either a Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association or an equivalent prosecution group?

ANSWER: Yes.

FACTS

The inquiring judge indicated to the local State Attorney and Public Defender the desire to attend DUI seminars sponsored by either a Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association or an equivalent prosecution group. The judge is considering attending two upcoming seminars, one sponsored by the Florida Association of Criminal Defense lawyers and the other sponsored by the National Association of Criminal Defense lawyers. The inquiring judge will personally pay for the cost of the seminar; will not receive any gifts for attending the seminars; and the judge’s attendance will not be used to promote the seminars.

DISCUSSION

Canon 4B provides:

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. 98-5, the Committee was posed with a similar question: whether it was ethically proper for a judge to attend educational programs designed for and attended by criminal defense attorneys. The committee concluded that “a judge’s mere presence as [sic] an educational program designed for and attended by criminal defense attorneys should be permitted, since it may improve the administration of justice by providing the judge with current important topics in the area of criminal law.”

Under the circumstances set forth in this inquiry, the Committee does not perceive that the inquiring judge’s attendance at legal seminars sponsored by either Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Associations or an equivalent prosecution group is inappropriate, as long as the judge personally pays for the cost of the seminar, does not receive any gifts for attending, and the attendance is not used in any way to promote the seminars.

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 4B

Fla. JEAC Op. 98-5

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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:
Judge Robert Benton, Judge Karen Cole, Judge Lisa Davidson, Judge Michael Raiden, Judge Jose Rodriguez, Judge Leslie B. Rothenberg, 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
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)