FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2019-01
Date of Issue: January 10, 2019

ISSUES

1. Whether the Code of Judicial Conduct permits a senior judge who is retiring and not subject to recall to use his/her name along with the designations of “HON” (Honorable) and “RET” (Retired) on a program at the event commemorating the retiring judge’s career.

ANSWER: Yes.

2. Whether the Code of Judicial Conduct governs if similar designations may be used on the retired judge’s personal stationery or mediation/legal-related stationery.

ANSWER: No.

 

FACTS

A senior judge who is retiring completely from all judicial service and will not be subject to recall asks if the designations of “HON” or “Honorable” and “RET” or “Retired” may be used on a program for an event recognizing the judge’s career, on personal stationery, or on stationery related to anticipated future mediation and legal related services.

 

DISCUSSION

Inquiries to this committee often touch on Canons 4 and 5 in that they seek guidance for judges accepting awards or honors for and by various organizations, and for a variety of factually sensitive scenarios. In the present case however, the committee is informed that the retiring judge has no plans to be subject to recall or ever serve in a judicial capacity in the future. Moreover, the gathering to honor an outstanding career of judicial service is to occur after the judge’s retirement. As far as who is subject to the Code, the section titled “Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct” states:

B. Retired/Senior Judge

(2) If a retired justice or judge does not desire to be assigned to judicial service, such justice or judge who is a member of The Florida Bar may engage in the practice of law and still be entitled to receive retirement compensation. The justice or judge shall then be entitled to all the rights of an attorney-at-law and no longer be subject to this Code.

Because the judge does not desire to be assigned judicial service, and the retirement event will occur after leaving the bench and all judicial service, the retired judge’s conduct will no longer be subject to the Code. Similarly, the retired judge will no longer be subject to the Code with regard to the use of any title on personal or professional stationery. Rather, the former judge would be subject to any rights or restrictions of the Florida Bar if the retired judge becomes a practicing lawyer or court-certified mediator, and this Committee expresses no opinions as to the application of the Bar’s rules.

 

REFERENCES

Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Application

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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 James A. Edwards, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Chair, Fifth District Court of Appeal, 300 South Beach Street, Daytona Beach, FL 32114.

Participating Members:
Judge Michael Andrews, Judge Roberto Arias, Judge Nina Ashenafi-Richardson, Judge W. Joel Boles, Judge Miguel de la O, Judge James A. Edwards, Judge David Green, Mark Herron, Esquire, Justice Barbara Lagoa, Judge Matthew C. Lucas, Judge Michael Raiden, and Charles Reynolds, Esquire.


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