May 30, 1984
Opinion No. 84/12
Disqualification in cases involving political opponent
Your inquiry states that a local attorney has announced the intention to oppose you for reelection as circuit judge and has requested that you disqualify yourself in all cases in which the attorney appears of record. Your inquiry is not as to whether you should disqualify yourself but as to the correct method of doing so and concern for the precedent it could establish if automatic disqualification is required in advance as to all attorneys who declare an intention to run against the judge. The question is ten whether there should be an automatic, blanket disqualification order entered as to all cases that may be filed by the political opponent or whether the usual avenues of disqualification set out in Chapter 38, Florida Statutes, should be followed on a case-by-case basis.
The committee unanimously states that you should be disqualified in cases of your political opponent. However, as to the method, there is a division among the members of the committee. Of the nine members voting, five are of the view that you should follow the usual avenues of disqualification on a case-by-case basis; three members vote that you should automatically disqualify yourself on all cases handled by this attorney; and one member votes that you should act on your own motion under Section 38.05, Florida Statutes, either on a case-by-case or blanket basis.
Although disqualification is a question of law, it also involves the Code of Judicial Conduct because of Canon 3C, which provides that a judge should disqualify himself in a proceeding in which "his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." Clearly, cases involving a political opponent, either as a party or as an attorney, are proceedings in which the judge's impartiality may be questioned, and these proceedings should be handled by another judge.
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.