FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2013-07
Date of Issue: February 21, 2013

ISSUES

May a judge serve as a college football referee?

ANSWER: Yes, as long as the activity does not conflict with judicial duties.

FACTS

The inquiring judge serves as a college football referee and is paid reasonable compensation for these services.  It is unlikely that any of the participating schools would appear in the judge’s court.

DISCUSSION

Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 3A provides that the judicial duties of a judge shall take precedence over all of the judge’s other activities.  Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.215(b)(4) requires all judges to inform the chief judge of any contemplated absences that would affect the progress of the court’s business.  Therefore, the judge is advised to discuss this activity with the chief judge and schedule this activity in such a manner that would not conflict with judicial activities.

Canon 5B addresses avocational activities of a judge and encourages a judge to “participate in extrajudicial activities concerning non-legal subjects, subject to the requirements of the Code.” (emphasis added).Canon 5A sets forth the requirements of the Code as they pertain to extrajudicial activities:

  1. Extrajudicial Activities in General.  A judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extrajudicial activities so that they do not:
  1. cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge;
  2. undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality;
  3. demean the judicial office;
  4. interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties;
  5. lead to frequent disqualification of the judge; or
  6. appear to a reasonable person to be coercive.

Likewise, Canon 2 generally prohibits any activity involving impropriety or the appearance of impropriety, and Canon 2B specifically prohibits an activity that involves the misuse of the prestige of judicial office.  Serving as a part-time college football referee does not appear to reflect adversely on impartiality, demean judicial office, or interfere with the proper performance of judicial activities.           

           

Finally, Canon 6A states that a judge may receive compensation and reimbursement of expenses for an extrajudicial activity if the source of the payments does not give the appearance of influencing the judge in the performance of judicial duties or otherwise give the appearance of impropriety.  This compensation must be reasonable, cannot exceed what a person who is not a judge would receive for the same activity, and the expenses must cover the actual costs of expenses reasonably incurred, or otherwise should be reported as compensation.  The inquiring judge is further advised to make a proper financial disclosure of this income pursuant to the reporting requirements of Canon 6B.
           

           
REFERENCES

Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.215(b)(4).

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct Canons 2, 2B, 3A, 5A, 5B, 6A, 6B.

_____________


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 the Committee Chair: Judge Jonathan D. Gerber, Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Fourth District Court of Appeal, 1525 Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, West Palm Beach, Florida 33401.

Participating Members:
Judge Roberto Arias, Judge Robert T. Benton, Dean Bunch, Esquire, Judge Lisa Davidson, Judge Jack Espinosa, Jr., Judge Jonathan D. Gerber, Judge T. Michael Jones, Judge Barbara Lagoa, Patricia E. Lowry, Esquire, Judge Michelle T. Morley, Judge Richard R. Townsend, and Judge Dorothy Vaccaro.


Copies furnished to:
Inquiring judge (Name of the Inquiring Judge deleted)
Justice Charles T. Canady
Thomas D. Hall, Clerk of Supreme Court
All Committee Members
Executive Director of the J.Q.C.
Office of the State Courts Administrator