June 25, 1984
Opinion No. 84/17
I hasten to reply on behalf of the Committee as to your inquiry since the unanimous response is that your revised campaign literature is misleading and inappropriate.
Your inquiry to the Committee states that you are presently serving as a "Domestic Relations Commissioner" appointed by administrative order of the Circuit Court in accordance with Florida Statute Section 61.181 and Rule 1.490 Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. You are presently running for election to the Circuit Court and want to know whether you can define your position as a Domestic Relations Commissioner using the following terms: 1) judicial position, 2) limited jurisdiction family judge, 3) judicial officer, justifying the use of the term judicial experience. In connection with your inquiry you have enclosed a number of letters and documents including the letter from your opponent in the race and examples of your campaign literature, but original and revised.
The Committee notes that your literature, both original and revised, indicates that you are a circuit judge, and this is incorrect and improper. One member states as follows:
"[He] should identify himself as what he is -- a general master in the Domestic Relations Department. I suppose he could even use the term commissioner. I don't agree with [his] conclusion that he judges cases. I agree with him that the public believes he judges cases. In fact, he remains constantly under the control of a judge. I do not believe he occupies the position of a judge and he shouldn't give that impression."
Another member of the Committee states:
"The wording of the literature is ambiguous in that it implies or tends to imply the candidate is an incumbent circuit judge. Being appointed a Domestic Relations Commissioner and functioning in that capacity does not constitute judicial experience or the holding of a judicial position...There is no limited jurisdiction court designated the Family Court, and it is inappropriate for a candidate to claim that he has functioned in that capacity or jurisdiction in the state of Florida. The campaign material in question should be withdrawn immediately."
Another member writes that there is no question but that you should not refer to yourself in any fashion as a circuit court judge, family court judge, limited jurisdiction family judge or simply as a judge. This member writes however that it would not be inappropriate for you to refer to "judicial experience," but that you should not refer to yourself as a judicial officer.
Thus, the responding Committee members unanimously recommend that you withdraw your campaign literature and give a negative response to your inquiry concerning the use of the term "judicial position;" "limited jurisdiction family judge" and "judicial officer."
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, Grube, Hewitt, Letts,Tedder, and Turner, and Attorney Samuel J. Powers, Jr.