Opinions of the Judicial Ethics
Advisory Committee



2018


 

 Opinion
 Canon(s)
 Subject
2018-01
2A; 4A; 4B; 5A

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

2018-02
(Election)
7A(1) & (3), and commentary

1. May a judge’s parents and brother attend the judge spouse’s public announcement of spouse’s candidacy for elected office?

2. May the judge’s family and children attend and be introduced at the public announcement, as well as campaign events?

3. May judge’s parents and brother attend future fundraising events for spouse’s campaign?

4. May the candidate spouse explain the judge’s absence by conveying that the spouse’s job or profession does not allow spouse to attend or endorse any candidate for office?

2018-03
2A, 2B, 3E(1), 5A

1. Whether a judge must recuse based on information that an attorney who regularly appears before the judge is “thinking” of running against the judge.

2. Whether the judge may ask the attorney directly whether the attorney intends to run against the judge.

2018-04
(Election) (Amended)
7C(1)

May a judicial candidate personally solicit voters’ signatures on petition cards to be submitted at qualifying time in lieu of a filing fee?

2018-05
4A(1)-(6), 4D(2)(a), 4(D)(2)(b)

May the inquiring judge permit a legal aid organization to list the judge as a member of the host committee on an invitation to the organization’s fundraising event?

2018-06
Preamble to Code of Judicial Conduct, Application Section

May a part-time civil traffic infraction hearing officer be designated “of counsel” to a firm that represents clients in traffic cases in the same county where the hearing officer presides?

2018-07
5D(5)(a), 5D(5)(h), 6A, 6A(3), 6(B)(2)

1. Do I need to report complimentary attendance at a bar association-related luncheon, dinner, reception, or social event?

2. Do I need to report complimentary attendance at a legal aid, law school, lawyers association, university, high school, community service organization, or similar entity luncheon, dinner, or reception that is devoted to improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice?

3. Must I report small gifts from bar associations and educational organizations given as a token of appreciation or memento to judges who are speakers/presenters or who advise or judge moot court or mock trial competitions sponsored by the association or organization?

4. Do I have to report the waiver of annual dues to continue to be an active member of the same county bar association that I joined before I became a judge?  Attorneys have to pay annual dues, over $100, to be a member. Judges are not charged any annual dues.

5. Do I have to report honorary bar association memberships?  Some county bar associations charge attorneys annual dues, but include all judges in all courts serving that county in any capacity (county, circuit, district, and supreme court) as honorary members of the association; none of the judges are charged dues. While the automatic inclusion is appreciated, I have not attended any meeting or function of any of those associations.

6. Do I report waiver of annual foreign bar fees or dues?  I am an inactive member of another state or territory’s bar association that charges inactive attorney-members annual fees or dues exceeding $100, but does not charge me or any other judge-members annual dues.

7. Do I have to report complimentary admission to a legal seminar, where non-judges were charged a fee to attend? 

8. Do I have to report reimbursement or direct payment of travel expenses and tuition waivers related to attendance at a two-day legal seminar outside the state?  The seminar sponsor reimbursed me for my airfare. My room at the hotel, attendance at the seminar, and seminar-related meals were provided to me at no charge.

9. Do I have to report reimbursement of travel expenses and direct payment of expenses related to my attendance at the annual, statewide conference of the judges of my court (county, circuit or district court judges)?  There were continuing judicial education (CJE) seminars; at least half of our mandatory CJE credits must be obtained during such a judges’ conference. Breakfast, lunch, and light refreshments were provided to all judges at no charge. I was reimbursed by the state for my hotel room and mileage. Some judges have shared the opinion that reporting state-paid reimbursements was not really intended as that information is readily available from the state. Do I identify the “Source” of the payments or reimbursements on the form as the state?

10. I have been designated by my court conference to travel to Tallahassee relating to legislative matters, typically during the legislature’s sessions. Because of the importance of input from the judicial branch to ensure our continued ability to serve the people of Florida, the travel and reimbursements are authorized by my court conference and reimbursed by the state. Do I have to report the reimbursements or direct payments of these travel expenses?

2018-08 (amended)
2B, 3C(2), 4A(1)-(6), 4(D)(2)(a)-(b), 5C(3)(b)(i-iii) and Commentary 5D(1)-(4), Preamble to the Code of Judicial Conduct

May the Judicial Assistants Association of Florida (JAAF), as a registered 501(c)(6) non-profit organization, request and/or accept donations from attorneys, private law firms, businesses, and local bar associations to help offset the costs associated with hosting its annual educational conferences as an organization?

2018-09 4, 4A, 4D, 4D(1), 5, 5A, 5C(2)

Whether a Judge serve as a commissioner with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

2018-10 2B

Whether there is any stage in the investigative process of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners where a judge can voluntarily write a letter commenting on the character and fitness of an applicant for membership to The Florida Bar?

2018-11 2, 2A, 3E (1), 3E (2), 5D (1)(b), 5D (4)

1. May a judge continue to participate in a 401(k) retirement plan account established with his former law firm?

2. If permitted to continue to participate in the 401(k) plan, must the judge disqualify himself or herself from any cases involving attorneys from the former law firm for as long as the judge continues to participate in the plan?

2018-12
(Election)
7A(1) and 7A(3)

May a judicial candidate provide campaign literature to a partisan political group of volunteers for distribution to potential voters along with other partisan and non-partisan candidates’ flyers?

2018-13 2A, 2B, 3B(5), 3E(1), 3E(1)(d), 3E(1)(d)(ii)

Whether a judge married to a public defender may preside over the criminal mental health, drug, and veteran diversion courts where the judge’s spouse is responsible for the supervision of the public defender’s assigned to represent defendants in the respective diversion courts.

2018-14
(Election)
7(A)(3)(e)(ii)

May an administrative law judge who is a candidate for judicial office post pictures to a campaign website and on social media which show the candidate presiding from the bench and wearing a judicial robe while participating as a volunteer judge in a middle school mock trial competition.

2018-15 5C(3)

May a senior judge serve on the judicial council of a church of which he/she has been an active member for several decades?

2018-16
(Election)
7A(1)(e); 7A(3)(b); 7A(3)(c); 7C1

May a judicial candidate’s committee of responsible persons engage the services of a person or entity who will perform fundraising activities on behalf of the committee and be compensated based on a percentage of the contributions received through the efforts of such fundraiser persons or entities?

2018-17 5C(2)

May the inquiring judge serve as a member of a statutorily created council that nominates veterans to receive awards recognizing their service?

2018-18 3(D)(2), 3(E)(1), 3(E(1)(a)

Must a judge disclose to an attorney that the judge has filed a bar complaint against that attorney?

2018-19 4(C), 5(C)(1), 5(C)(2), 5(C)(3)(b)(i), 5(C)(3)(b)(iii)

May a judge accept an appointment as non-voting chair of a committee created by a county commission to consider establishment of a Children’s Services Council as provided in Chapter 125, Florida Statutes?

2018-20
(Election)
7

May a judicial candidate continue to retain the services of a campaign management firm, if one of the owners or principals of the firm, who will not manage the campaign of the judicial candidate, also holds an executive position in a partisan organization, in an individual capacity?

2018-21
(Election)
7 and Canon 7A (3)(e)(ii)

May a judicial candidate use or re-publish a news media report on the opponent's admittedly inappropriate relationship with a legal client, which occurred during the representation?

2018-22 3E(1), 3E(1)(a), 3E(1)(d), 3E(1)(d)(iii)

Do the Canons of Judicial Ethics require that a judge automatically recuse or disqualify himself/herself without request when a close relative and that relative’s company are represented by a law firm whose lawyers have unrelated cases pending before the judge.

2018-23 4B, 6A & B

1. Whether a judge may permit court cases to be filmed and televised on a weekly basis.

2. Whether a judge may research, write, and appear in televised public service announcements which discuss issues surrounding family violence.

3. Whether a judge may be compensated for appearing in televised public service announcements.

2018-24
(Election)
7 Definitions; Canon 7E; Canon 7 A (1)(b)

1. Whether a judicial candidate can accept support or endorsement from former judicial candidates who the inquiring candidate defeated in the recent primary election cycle.

2. Whether a judicial candidate can advertise the support or endorsement from former judicial candidates who the inquiring candidate defeated in the recent primary election cycle.

2018-25 4A(1)-(6), 4D(2)(a), (b)

Whether judge members of a Florida Supreme Court committee may solicit funds from The Florida Bar, voluntary bar associations, private for-profit and not-for-profit corporations, law firms, lawyers and other groups for the purpose of defraying the cost of hosting the annual conference of the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts?

2018-26 3E

1. May a judge preside over a circuit court criminal division if the judge's child is an assistant public defender assigned to a separate circuit court criminal division before another judge in the same county?

2. Should the judge routinely disclose that the judge's child is an attorney employed by the Public Defender's Office, serving in a different judicial division?

2018-27 4A, 4D(2), 4D(2)(a), 4D(2)(b), 5A, and 5C(3)(b)(i)

1. May the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges and the Conference of County Court Judges of Florida (collectively “Conferences”) or individual judges seek donations from the Conferences’ members so that the Conferences can directly provide monetary assistance, to fellow judges, judicial assistants, and court staff impacted by Hurricane Michael?

2. Can the organizations set a matching dollar limit?

3. May the donations be collected using an electronic format including, but not limited to, PayPal, Zelle, Venmo and/or GoFundMe?

2018-28
(Election)
7A(1)(e) and 7C(1)

May a judicial candidate accept a contribution from a registered Florida political committee in which the judicial candidate’s paid campaign consultant is an officer and into which the campaign consultant solicits contributions?

2018-29 4A(1)-(6), 4D, and 4D(2)(b)
May a judge accept a distinguished alumni award from the law school that the judge graduated where the ceremony is a fundraiser for scholarships for law students?
2018-30 1, 2A, 3A, 3C(1), 3E, 3E(1)(c)

1.  Whether a general magistrate may maintain an active Florida real estate license.

2.  Whether a general magistrate may act as a real estate agent in a transaction concerning the sale of the magistrate's current home.

3.  Whether a general magistrate may act as a real estate agent in a transaction concerning the purchase of real property for the magistrate's personal use.

4.  Whether a general magistrate may act as a real estate agent for a family member in a transaction concerning the sale or purchase of real property.

5.  Whether a general magistrate may act as a real estate agent in a transaction concerning the sale or purchase of property for the general public.

2018-31 2B, 5B and commentary to Canons 2B, 5A

1. May a judge serve as a member of a committee tasked with interviewing applicants who seek admission to the judge’s alma mater?

2. May the judge provide his impression of the applicant?

3. May the judge recommend the student for admission?