FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2016-12
Date of Issue: August 3, 2016

ISSUE

May a judge work for a for-profit company to earn supplemental income by securing potential accredited investors for the company?

ANSWER: No.

 

FACTS

The inquiring judge wishes to pursue an opportunity to earn supplemental income on a commission basis. The judge has been approached by the president of a for-profit company to assist in securing potential accredited investors for multi-family residential real estate investment opportunities and focused markets. The judge anticipates utilizing his network of family and friends to identify accredited investors and acting as a liaison between potential investors and the company. The judge suggests that his activities in this role would be conducted during non-business hours and weekends, as there are no mandatory time requirements associated with the position.

 

DISCUSSION

In Opinion 2007-21, the Committee determined that a judge may not serve as an advisory board member, with or without compensation, for a for-profit internet company. Canon 5C(3) directs that “a judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, sororal or civic organization not conducted for profit” unless the organization likely will be engaged in proceedings that will come before the judge or will be engaged frequently in adversary proceedings in the court of which the judge is a member or has appellate jurisdiction. (emphasis applied.)

However, Cannon 5D(3) prohibits a judge from serving at all as an officer, director, manager, general partner, advisor, or employee of any business entity except a business closely held by the judge or members of the judge’s family or a business entity primarily engaged in investment of the financial resources of the judge or members of the judge’s family. It does not appear that the limited exceptions in Cannon 5D(3) apply to this inquiry.

We note in Opinion 2006-02­ the Committee found that a senior judge may work as a freelance writer for a Florida newspaper, investigating and writing only human interest and sports articles. This opinion did not address whether the judge was being compensated for his services, although the Committee determined that the judge may not own an interest in a weekly newspaper, either in Florida or outside the state, where that ownership interest will require the judge to manage the newspaper.

Therefore, the judge may not serve as an employee of the for-profit business entity.

 

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canons 5C(3) and 5D(3)
Fla. JEAC Ops. 2007-21 and 2006-02.

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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 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 of 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 whether the proposed conduct violates a provision of that Code.

For further information, contact Judge Spencer D. Levine, Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Fourth District Court of Appeal, 1525 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., West Palm Beach, FL 33401

Participating Members:
Judge Roberto Arias, Judge Nina Ashenafi-Richardson, Judge W. Joel Boles, Judge Lisa Davidson, Judge Miguel de la O, James A. Edwards, Mark Herron, Esquire, Judge Barbara Lagoa, Judge Spencer D. Levine, Judge K. Douglas Henderson, Patricia E. Lowry, Esquire, Judge Michael Raiden.


Copies furnished to:
Inquiring judge (Name of the Inquiring Judge deleted)
Justice Charles T. Canady, Justice Liaison
John A Tomasino, Clerk of Supreme Court
All Committee Members
Executive Director of the Judicial Qualifications Committee
Office of the State Courts Administrator