FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2012-17 (Election)
Date of Issue: June 15, 2012

ISSUE

May a candidate for judicial office, who is the campaign treasurer, remove a campaign contribution from a post office box, and deposit that contribution in the campaign account?

ANSWER: Yes.

FACTS

The inquiring judge, a candidate for reelection, states that he has appointed himself as campaign treasurer.  He asks whether he may remove contributions mailed to a post office box established by the campaign, and record and deposit those contributions in the campaign account, fulfilling his responsibilities as campaign treasurer.

DISCUSSION

The inquiring judge has reviewed our Opinion 2012-01, which opines that “the judicial candidate is prohibited from accepting contributions, a function which is reserved exclusively to the committee of responsible persons.”  This opinion is based upon the Committee's conclusion that “Although the text of Canon 7C (1) speaks only to securing and soliciting contributions, and not the acceptance of contributions, the purpose of the committee [of interested persons] is to insulate the candidate from fundraising, in all of its aspects, including the acceptance of contributions.”

    

Section 106.021(1)(c), Florida Statutes, provides that “A candidate may appoint herself or himself as campaign treasurer.”

The Committee believes that, being the campaign treasurer, the inquiring judge is not prohibited from performing the ministerial act of removing contributions from a post office box, recording them, and depositing them in the campaign account.

The holding of Opinion 2012-01 was intended to insulate the candidate from fundraising activities, including the solicitation of contributions and the personal acceptance of contributions from contributors.  In this case, the proposed conduct does not involve the inquiring judge in fundraising.  It is simply the fulfillment of a ministerial act required of the campaign treasurer, and therefore is not prohibited.

REFERENCES

Section 106.021(1)(c), Florida Statutes.

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canons 7C(1), 7C(3)(d).

Fla. JEAC Op. 2012-01.

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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