July 9, 1985
Opinion No. 85/9
Canons 2A, 3A(1), 3A(4), 3A(6), 3C(1)
You inquire as to whether it would be proper to meet with a newly formed citizens group called, "Advocates for Victimized Children." this group was apparently formed because of a sentence imposed by you in a case that is till pending. They wish to speak with you about matters related to the case.
The committee members unanimously agree that you should not meet with this group, at least for the special purposes mentioned. One committee member believes you can control your communication with this group by dealing in general terms through written correspondence. Other members take a more restrictive view to the extent that you should not attend any meetings of the organization and should exercise great care in responding to questions posed by them. You know, of course, that you cannot indicate your personal views on the subjects about which this group is particularly interested.
A review of the Canons indicates the following pertinent provisions: Canon 2A -- a judge should conduct himself at all times "in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary;" Canon 3A(1) -- a judge "should be unswayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism;" Canon 3A(4) -- a judge should "neither initiate nor consider ex parte or other communications concerning a pending or impending proceeding."; Canon 3A(6) -- a judge should abstain from public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court, and should require similar abstention on the part of court personnel subject to his direction and control." This last noted subsection does not prohibit judges from making public statements in the course of their official duties or from explaining for public information the proceedings of the proceedings (sic) of the court.
Canon 3C(1) provides that a judge should "disqualify himself in a proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned;" Canon 4 -- "subject to the proper performance of his judicial duties,: a judge may engage in certain quasi-judicial activities "if in doing so he does not cast doubt on his capacity to decide impartially any issue that may come before him." Under Canon 4, a judge is allowed to write, speak, lecture, teach, etc., concerning the legal system and the administration of justice.
In conclusion, the committee members unanimously recommend that you decline to meet with the citizens group called "Advocates for Victimized Children," and that any communications with that group be texted in non-specific terms so that your personal views on disposition of sexual battery cases not be conveyed.
Thank you for your inquiry.
Yours very truly,
Oliver L. Green, Jr., Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Participating members: Judges Booth, Blanchard, Dell, Turner, Goldstein,
Green, Grube, Tedder, Letts and Attorney M. Craig Massey
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
Kathleen T. Phillips, 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