FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2006-04
Date of Issue: March 3, 2006

ISSUES

May a judge serve on a congressional district selection committee which will help select young people to be nominated to the various military academies?

ANSWER: No.  Membership on a military academy selection committee is proscribed by Canon 5C of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

FACTS

The inquiring judge has volunteered to serve on a congressional district committee which will help select young people to be nominated to various military academies.  The inquiry states the judge has over two decades of military and National Guard service which qualifies the judge to serve on the committee.

DISCUSSION

Generally, judges are allowed to participate on committees and in organizations as long as the committees and organizations are dedicated to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice with limitations.  See Canon 4D.  However, not all committee and organizational service is sanctioned by the Code.  Extrajudicial service must be reviewed in the context of and tempered by Canon 5. 

Canon 5C of the Code of Judicial Conduct is entitled “Governmental, Civic or Charitable Activities”.  In particular, Canon 5C(2) reads in part:

A judge should not accept appointment to a governmental committee or commission, or other governmental position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system, the judicial branch, or the administration of justice.

In JEAC Opinion 93-42, the committee was asked this question and stated service on a military academy selection committee was proscribed by Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.  The committee continues to adhere to that position.

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canons 4D, 5 and 5C(2); and Commentary to Canon 5C(2)

Fla. JEAC Op. 93-42.

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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 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)