FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2012-14 (Election)
Date of Issue: May 21, 2012

ISSUES

May a committee of responsible persons, established by a judicial candidate to support the candidate’s campaign, hold an event at the candidate’s parents’ home, at which funds will be solicited for the candidate’s campaign?

ANSWER: Yes.

May the committee solicit contributions in the flyer promoting the event and at the event itself?

ANSWER: Yes.  However, neither the candidate nor her parents may be present when the solicitation of funds is made.

 

FACTS

The inquiring judicial candidate’s committee of responsible persons wishes to hold a fundraising event at the candidate’s parents’ home.  The committee intends to print flyers promoting the event.  The committee intends to solicit funds both in the flyer, as well as at the event itself.  The candidate and the candidate’s parents will be at the event.

    

 

DISCUSSION

Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct applies to judicial candidates.  Fla. Code Jud. Conduct Canon 7E.  As noted by the inquiring judicial candidate, this committee has previously opined that Canon 7A(3)(a) requires candidates to encourage their parents to refrain from personally soliciting campaign contributions.  JEAC Op. 08-09.  Additionally, it is clear that Canon 7C(1) prohibits the candidate from personally soliciting campaign funds. 

This Committee also has opined that the provision relating to solicitation of funds also prohibits judicial candidates from handing out campaign literature that includes a request for contributions, JEAC Op. 04-07 (Election); sending an e-mail inviting or encouraging persons to attend a fundraiser for the candidate, JEAC Op. 12-14 (Election); and including a pay/contribution link in a campaign web site maintained by the candidate, JEAC Ops. 08-11 (Election) and 10-21 (Election), or in a Facebook campaign page, JEAC Op. 10-28

This Committee has steadfastly safeguarded the Canon’s prohibition against candidates’ solicitation of funds and applied it to prohibit  proposed conduct when it could appear to a reasonable person that the conduct was a solicitation by the candidate.
 
Canon 7C(1), however, allows a committee of “responsible persons to secure and manage the expenditure of funds for the candidate’s campaign[.]”  Therefore, while the committee is expressly allowed to solicit and raise funds, neither the candidate nor the parents may be present when those solicitations occur.   Any solicitation of funds at this party must be made only by the members of the committee, in such a way that a reasonable person would not consider that the solicitation is being made by the candidate or the candidate’s parents.   Accordingly, the solicitation must be made outside the presence of the candidate and the parents.  The candidate and the parents should remove themselves from the party when the solicitation occurs, so as to avoid the impression which a reasonable person may draw that the solicitation was being made by the candidate or the candidate’s parents.   

Canon 7 does not place any restrictions on the committee’s hosting a fundraiser at the candidate’s home or at the candidate’s parents’ home.  Therefore, the parents’ home can be used for hosting the fundraiser, subject to the prohibition on the candidate and parents’ solicitations set forth above.

    

 

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canons 7A(3)(a), 7C(1) and 7E.

Fla. JEAC Ops. 04-07, 08-09, 08-11,  10-14,  10-21, 10-28.

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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 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. See 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. See Id.

The Committee expresses no view on whether any proposed conduct of an inquiring judge is consistent with substantive law which governs any proceeding over which the inquiring judge may preside. The Committee only has authority to interpret the Code of Judicial Conduct, and therefore its opinions deal only with the issue of whether the proposed conduct violates a provision of that Code.

For further information, contact: Patricia E. Lowry, Esquire, Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey (US) LLP, 777 South Flagler Drive, Suite 1900 West, West Palm Beach, Florida 33401-6161.

Participating Members:
Judge Roberto Arias, Judge Robert T. Benton, Dean Bunch, Esquire, Judge Lisa Davidson, Judge Jonathan D. Gerber, Judge T. Michael Jones, Judge Barbara Lagoa, Patricia E. Lowry, Esquire, Judge Jose′ Rodriguez, Judge C. McFerrin Smith, III, Judge Richard R. Townsend, and Judge Dorothy Vaccaro.


Copies furnished to:
Inquiring judge (Name of the Inquiring Judge deleted)
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