FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Opinion Number: 2020-01
Date of Issue: January 24, 2020

ISSUES

Whether a judge may publish the judge’s dissertation as a book and receive compensation for sale of the book.

ANSWER: Yes.

FACTS

With the support of two successive chief judges, the inquiring judge worked toward the completion of a doctoral degree in judicial studies. The doctoral degree required the judge to complete courses and a dissertation. Recently, the judge successfully defended his dissertation, and the dissertation committee members suggested the judge consider publishing the dissertation as a book.

The inquiring judge is “interested to know if I may publish and receive compensation” for publishing the dissertation as a book. “The book will be based on the dissertation but will be significantly edited for a broader audience.” The judge states that “no judicial resources will be used to edit, publish, or market any book that results from the dissertation manuscript.”

 

DISCUSSION

Several times, including recently, we addressed inquiries asking whether a judge may write a book. See Fla. JEAC Op. 19-18. Our answer to that general question remains unchanged.

Multiple canons of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct apply to this inquiry. Canon 1 provides: “A Judge Shall Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary.” Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 1. Canon 2A states that a judge “shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 2A. Similarly, Canon 2B states: “A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others[.]” Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 2B. Finally, Canon 6 provides: “Fiscal Matters of a Judge Shall be Conducted in a Manner That Does Not Give the Appearance of Influence or Impropriety[.] . . .” Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 6.

These canons are clear that a judge must not advance private interests based on the prestige or resources of the judicial office. But, the judge states that “no judicial resources will be used to edit, publish, or market any book that results from the dissertation manuscript.” As a result, we do not believe the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits the judge from publishing and selling the book.

That said, our inquiry is limited to “contemplated judicial and non-judicial conduct” and we do not comment on prior actions of a judge or judicial candidate. In re Comm. on Stds. of Conduct Governing Judges, 698 So. 2d 834, 835 (Fla. 1997). As a result, we do not consider the judge’s past actions or the preparation of the dissertation.

Of course, we caution the inquiring judge that his actions relating to the publishing and sale of the forthcoming book must comply with the Code of Judicial Conduct. See, e.g., In re Hawkins, 151 So. 3d 1200 (Fla. 2014). For example, in Fla. JEAC Op. 19-18, we explained that while “writing informative books and articles is encouraged,” a judge “should be mindful of the issues created by taking any definitive positions.” The judge must also make certain that the promotion and sale of the book does not intermingle with court related obligations. Id.

We also wrote that a judge is permitted to publish a book, “post a photo of the judge on the author page, participate in book signings and have it disclosed in a press release that the author is a judge.” Id. (citing Fla. JEAC Op. 10-12). But we cautioned that a judge may not directly sell the book to a member of the bar. Id. (citing Fla. JEAC Op. 89-06). Nor may a judge allow his judicial assistant or immediate family members to do so. Id.

In conclusion, the judge may publish his dissertation as a book. But the judge should not use any additional judicial resources or time in doing so. Further, the judge must be mindful of his obligations under the Code of Judicial Conduct when promoting and selling the book.

 

REFERENCES

In re Hawkins, 151 So. 3d 1200 (Fla. 2014)

In re Comm. on Stds. of Conduct Governing Judges, 698 So. 2d 834 (Fla. 1997)

Fla. Code of Jud. Conduct, Canons 1, 2A, 2B, and 6

Fla. JEAC Ops. 19-18, 10-12, 89-06.

Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.320, 2.230(e)

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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 W. Joel Boles, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Chair, First Circuit M.C. Blanchard Judicial Building, 190 Governmental Center, 6th Floor, Pensacola, FL 32502 or JEAC@flcourts.org.

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, Judge Jeffrey T. Kuntz, 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, Supreme Court Clerk
All Committee Members
General Counsel of the J.Q.C.
Melissa Hamilton, Staff Counsel