July 5, 1984
Opinion No. 84/13
Your inquiry to the committee states that you have been asked to serve as Chairman-Elect of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, a section that has been actively filing amicus briefs in Florida appellate courts. You further state that the amicus briefs are submitted only with the approval of the Board of Governors..You want to know if there are any restrictions under the Canons on a judge serving as Chairman of the Family Law Section with respect to the section's amicus activities.
The members of the committee responding to this inquiry are unanimous in their response that you can serve as chairman but with the caveat that you avoid direct involvement in any activities of the Family Law Section which could reflect adversely on your impartiality as a judge.
In prior opinions, this committee has determined that it is proper for a judge to belong to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (Opinion No. 80/8); that the Canons do not prohibit a judge from petitioning the Florida Supreme Court to review the Florida Bar dues structure as pertains to county judges (Opinion No. 80/16); and that it would be permissible for a judge to file an amicus brief requested by the Supreme Court concerning the Constitutional Revision Commission on the grounds that, from the nature of the proceeding and the purposes for which the brief was contemplated, the filing would not fall within the language of Canon 5F, which prohibits a judge from practicing law (Opinion No. 76/26). On the other hand, a judge of a lower court may not furnish authorities to an appellate court or apprise the appellate judge of recent decisions pertaining to a case of that judge pending before the appellate court because such activity would render the judge's impartiality and neutrality questionable (Opinion No. 82/9).
The instant inquiry does not state what activities you would be expected to perform as Chairman of the Family Law Section other than your mention of writing or arguing amicus briefs. If political activities, such as lobbying for legislation relating to family law, is a customary function of the chairman, it would be improper for you as a judge to be involved in such activity.
In sum, the committee responds that you may serve as chairman and could conceivably participate in some types of amicus activities under the prior opinions mentioned above, but should avoid involvement in any activity which might reflect on your impartiality or neutrality as a 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, Dell, Green, Hewitt, Letts, Tedder and Attorney Samuel J. Powers, Jr.