FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2014-03
Date of Issue: February 4, 2014

ISSUES

May a newly-appointed judge continue to host a weekend radio program playing classic songs for a commercial radio station?

ANSWER: Yes, as long as the judge ensures that the judge’s hosting duties do not demean the judicial office, the judge is not an employee of the radio station and the judge does not personally participate in advertising promotions.

FACTS

The inquiring judge has recently been appointed to the bench and prior to the appointment had hosted a weekend radio program on a commercial radio station for many years. The hosted program generally consisted of playing “classic hits” from the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s. The inquiring judge acted essentially as a disk jockey – introducing songs, giving the weather, and dispensing music trivia about the songs/artists played. 

During the inquiring judge’s radio program, the radio station utilized pre-recorded advertisements but the inquiring judge was not involved in the selling or recording of such advertisements. Occasionally, advertising packages sold to advertisers included the inquiring judge giving away a product or service to a listener (e.g. the third caller wins a glass bottom boat ride from an advertiser).

The inquiring judge also received compensation from the radio station for his disk jockeying duties in the amount of $20.00 per hour while in the studio “live” amounting to $60.00 per week in compensation.

The inquiring judge recognizes the applicable judicial canons raised by his inquiry and the Committee would like to acknowledge the judge for his efforts in both providing the Committee with a detailed factual basis outlining his inquiry and for his review of the Code of Judicial Conduct and past opinions of the Committee.

DISCUSSION

Because the inquiry at issue concerns extrajudicial activities, the relevant provision of the Code of Judicial Conduct is Canon 5A, which provides that “[a] judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra-judicial 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.” Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 5A(1)-(6).  As long as the inquiring judge’s weekend disk jockeying duties are not conducted in a manner that would demean the judicial office, the general proscriptions outlined above in Canon 5A would not be implicated under the facts of the current inquiry.  However, as stated in Canon 5B, while a judge is encouraged to participate in extrajudicial activities concerning non-legal subjects, participation is subject to all requirements of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 5B. 

Canon 5D(3) provides that “[a] judge shall not serve as an . . . employee of any business entity” with limited exceptions not applicable to the present inquiry.  Therefore, the inquiring judge would be prohibited from performing his disk jockeying duties as an employee of the radio station. However, given the nominal compensation received and the minimal weekends hours of disk jockeying performed, the Committee believes the inquiring judge could host the radio program under an independent contractor relationship with the radio station.  See Fla. JEAC Op. 2006-02 (finding that a judge may write sports and human interest stories for either a Florida newspaper or an out-of-state newspaper as a freelance writer but would be prohibited from doing so as an employee of a newspaper).  In addition, any compensation received by the inquiring judge is subject to the compensation restrictions of the Code of Judicial Conduct established in Canon 6A (providing in pertinent part a judge may receive compensation for extrajudicial activities permitted by the Code if the source of such payment does not give the appearance of influencing the judge in the performance of judicial duties or otherwise give the appearance of impropriety and the compensation does not exceed a reasonable amount nor exceed what a person who is not a judge would receive for the same activity).

Finally, Canon 2B provides “[a] judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others . . .” Should the inquiring judge choose to continue his disk jockeying duties, the judge should ensure that he has no personal participation in advertisements aired on the radio station including refraining from participation in any on-air promotions, contests or commercials. 

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct Canons 2B, 5A, 5B, 5D(3) and 6A.
JEAC Op. 2006-02

_____________


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 to 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 Judge Roberto Arias, Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Duval County Courthouse, 501 West Adams Street, Room 7180, Jacksonville, Florida 32202-4603.

Participating Members:
Judge Roberto Arias, Robert T. Benton, II, Dean Bunch, Esquire, Judge Lisa Davidson, Judge Jack Espinosa, Jr., Judge Jonathan D. Gerber, Judge Terry Michael Jones, Patricia E. Lowry, Esquire, Judge Michael Raiden, Judge Richard R. Townsend, Judge Dorothy L. 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