October 22, 1985
Opinion No. 85/15
You inquire as to whether the conduct of Florida judges is controlled by Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct promulgated by the American Bar Association. This section provides as follows:
Canon 2 Code of Judicial Conduct
(American Bar Association)
It is inappropriate for a judge to hold member ship in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin. Membership of a judge in an organization that practices invidious discrimination may give rise to perceptions by minorities, women, and others, that the judge's impartiality is impaired. Whether an organization practices invidious discrimination is often a complex question to which judges should be sensitive. The answer cannot be determined from a mere examination of an organization's current membership rolls, but rather depends on the history of the organization's selection of members and other relevant factors. Ultimately, each judge must determine in the judge's own conscience whether an organization of which the judge is a member practices invidious discrimination.
You inquire whether it is inappropriate for a judge to belong to a civic organization which prohibits membership of the opposite sex. A majority of the reporting members believe that Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, American Bar Association, does not control the activities of Florida judges with reference to organizations restricting membership based on sex.
One committee member believes we do not have sufficient information regarding the basis upon which Canon 2 was promulgated by the American Bar Association.
One other committee member essentially agrees with your conclusion that Florida judges should be controlled by the provisions of the aforementioned Canon. This last mentioned judge comments that the Canon proscribes that a judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his activities and believes that a judge should not lend the prestige of his office by membership in civic organizations that practice invidious discrimination.
It should be noted that the majority responding to your request limited their replies to the proposition that Florida judges are not controlled by the aforementioned Canon 2 and that there are no Florida Canons proscribing membership in civic organizations limiting membership to one gender.
With regards, I remain
Yours very truly,
Oliver L. Green, Jr.
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Participating members: Judges Booth, Dell, 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