Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2018-1
Date of Issue: January 6, 2018


May a judge who serves in criminal court preside over a mock trial used for educating police officers about court and courtroom procedure?

ANSWER: Yes. As long as presiding over the mock trial does not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially, demean the judicial office, or interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties.


General Counsel for the local police department has asked the inquiring judge to preside over a mock trial offered to familiarize law enforcement with the court process. The inquiring judge is a sitting criminal court judge. In addition to the judge, an Assistant State Attorney and a criminal defense lawyer will play the parts of prosecuting and defense attorneys. Other members of the community will play roles as witnesses. The intent is to make the mock trial as real as possible. At the end, the judge will be called upon to offer constructive critiques of “all participants.”



Canon 4B encourages a judge “to speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other quasi-judicial activities concerning the law, the legal system, [and] the administration of justice . . .” Canon 2A requires a judge to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. We have on many occasions encouraged judges to participate in activities that were, by design, educational for law enforcement and members of the public. See Fla.JEAC Op. 08-21 (a judge may teach an educational/trial skills course at a Dependency Court improvement Summit sponsored by the Department of Children and Families); Fla.JEAC Op. 05-11 (a judge may teach constitutional law and Florida Statutes at the local community college police academy); Fla.JEAC Op. 97-26 (a judge may teach a church law course at a religious university); Fla.JEAC Op. 87-3 (a judge may teach at a seminar sponsored by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers and the University of West Florida); Fla.JEAC Op.82-6 (lecturing a group of non-lawyers in landlord-tenant law is permitted); Fla.JEAC Op. 77-14 (a judge may teach a graduate seminar in juvenile justice and family law at a state university); Fla.JEAC Op. 76-21 (a judge may teach criminal justice at a community college); Fla.JEAC Op. 75-28 (a Florida Supreme Court Justice may teach at a state law school); Fla.JEAC Op. 73-17 (a judge may teach and lecture at a college of law).

We find that presiding over a mock trial presented to law enforcement for educational purposes does not violate the canons of ethics. If, at the end of the mock trial, the judge was called upon to teach or even comment on a finite area of settled law, the canons would allow and even encourage the judge to engage in that activity. However, the issue of concern is whether the judge should offer an opinion on the performance of members of law enforcement by offering a critique at the end of the mock trial. In Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinion 12-34, we advised against a judge accepting an invitation to critique a book written on a famous case by a criminal defense attorney. We were concerned that  “[i]f the proposed critique were to foreshadow how the judge might rule on a contested legal issue, then the proposed critique could cast reasonable doubt on the inquiring judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge or lead to frequent disqualification of the inquiring judge in violation of Canons 4A and 5A.” In Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinion 96-25, we found that a judge’s potential arrangement to appear on a television station “to comment about, explain to, and educate the public concerning diverse legal matters including explaining and clarifying the proceedings during high publicity trials” would cast doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially because “it would be nearly impossible for the judge to avoid injecting his own legal opinion or foreshadowing how he might rule on a contested legal issue”). While we agree that a judge may preside over a mock trial sponsored by local law enforcement, any comment about the performance of law enforcement or about ways in which members of law enforcement can improve their presentation in a courtroom setting may cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s ability to act impartially. We counsel against offering such a critique.



Florida Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 2A; 4A; 4B; 5A

JEAC Op. 12-34; 08-2105-1197-26; 96-25; 87-3; .82-6; 77-14; 76-21; 75-28; 73-17



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 Miguel de la O, Chair, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Eleventh Circuit, Miami-Dade County Courthouse, 73 W. Flagler Street, Room 1407, Miami, FL 33130.

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

All Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee opinions, subject matter indices, and a search engine are available on the Sixth Circuit’s website at www.jud6.org under Opinions. Committee opinions and related finding tools are also accessible on the Florida Supreme Court’s website at www.floridasupremecourt.org as a secondary posting under Court Opinions.

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