May 30, 1984
Opinion No. 84/11
Payments to charities as part of sentence
Your inquiry to the committee states that a number of the judges, both county and circuit, in your area have been requiring defendants in criminal cases to pay certain sums of money directly to a charity named by the judge as part of the sentence imposed. You state that your concern is that such a practice may be contrary to the provisions of Canon 5B, Code of Judicial Conduct.
One member of our committee responding to your inquiry is of the view that this question is outside the actual scope of our committee's function. The majority of the committee, however, responds to the inquiry, unanimously, that this practice should be discontinued. Canon 5B prescribes the the charitable activities that a judge may undertake and precludes a judge from soliciting funds or permitting the use of the prestige of his office for that purpose. One member also notes the involvement of the general prohibition of Canon 2B and writes:
I perceive a potential violation of Canon 2B, Code of Judicial Conduct. The power to control the pocketbook of another person so as to cause him to take that which is his own and give it to another is an awesome power; it is tantamount to the authority to tax. If a judge exercises this power in such a way as to convey the impression that he is advancing the private interest of a particular charity, he may be improperly lending the prestige of his office to that charity. This may reflect adversely upon the impartiality and integrity of the judge.
Both Canon 2B and Canon 5B condemn the use by a judge of the prestige of his office for the advancement of private interests, although Canon 5B is more specifically directed toward charitable private interests. In this case, it is not the prestige alone which is being used but the power of the judicial office in imposing a charitable contribution requirement as part of a sentence, and the infringement of the Canons is clear.
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 Turner, and Attorney Samuel J. Powers, Jr.