May 9, 1984
Opinion No. 84/8
Judge's attendance at meetings sponsored by a political party
Your inquiry to the committee poses the following questions: (1) Is it permissible for a judge to attend meetings organized by a political party where political speeches, lectures, and other programs are held to inform members of the public of the views of the political party? (2) May a judge attend political party functions not open to the public for the judge's information as well as to meet the political candidates? (3) Would a judge be permitted under Canon 7 to sign a "minor party candidate petition" to be submitted to the Florida electoral officials requesting that the party candidates for President and Vice President of the United States be placed on the Florida general election ballot: (4) May a judge be a speaker or otherwise participate in a gathering of members of a political party where he has been requested to speak about his job and to answer questions about the courts and the judiciary?
You do not indicate that your activities are the result of your being a candidate for re-election to judicial office, and our response is thus based on your activities other than as a candidate.
The majority of the committee gives a negative answer to all four of the questions posed by your inquiry. Two members responding would allow you to attend purely for the purpose of addressing those present concerning the courts and the judiciary. As to all other questions posed, the committee is unanimous in responding in the negative.
A prior opinion of our committee, No. 83/13, referred to an earlier opinion, No. 74/3, but seems to reach a contrary result on the question of a judge speaking at a political function on an educational matter. In this opinion, we will clarify any discrepancy between those prior opinions by restating what was said in No. 74/3 in response to a question as to whether it was proper for a judge to accept "an invitation to appear before a local political party meeting for the purpose of explaining discussing the new judicial system." The response was that a judge should refrain from attending political gatherings even though his attendance would be for educational purposes because: "There is the question of 'how education the educational talk would be or appear to be. We are reminded that a judge should not use, or appear to us, his position on behalf of any political party." (No. 74/3).
Anne C. Booth, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
All reference to the inquiring judge is deleted from the copies sent to the following individuals.
Mr. Sid White, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida
Linda Yates, Managing Editor, The Florida Bar Journal
Mark Hulsey, Esq., Chairman, Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Hon. Howard T. Markey, Chairman, Ethics Advisory Panel of the Judicial Conference of the United States .
Jeffrey M. Shaman, Esquire, Director, Center for Judicial Conduct Organizations
Ms. Jean Underhill, Librarian, Broward County Law Library
Mr. Robert Wallace, Librarian, Dade County Law Library
Mr. Brian Polley, Librarian, Supreme Court of Florida
Participating members: Judges Booth, Carlisle, Green, Grube, Hewitt, Letts, Tedder and Attorney Samuel J. Powers, Jr.