December 17, 1985

Opinion No. 85-17
Canon 4A

You inquire as to whether you would be in violation of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct with respect to writing jurors who serve on cases over which you preside. The letters would be written after the conclusion of a trial, and would point out the importance of jury duty as a civic responsibility, thank the individual jurors for his or her service, and solicit comments or observations. The jurors would be invited to make suggestions regarding improvements in the justice system. The letters would not mention the verdict and would not refer to the issues of cases tried.

All responding committee members agree this conduct would not be in violation of the code. Canon 4A of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge "may speak, write, lecture, teach, and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system and the administration of justice."

A majority of the members question the wisdom of this proposed procedure. One member commented that lawyers involved in such cases would be bound by Rule 7-29 and Rule 7-108 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which regulates their communication with jurors. Two committee members believe this is a matter you should discuss with your Chief Judge because of the possible expense involved.

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 Blanchard, 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

December 23, 1985


An additional committee member responded to your inquiry since the above opinion was written. This member agrees with the holding of the opinion that you would not be in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct with reference to post trial jury communication. This member suggests you make it clear to the jurors that you do not solicit comments concerning those matters which may have occurred during the time of the jury's deliberation.

It is suggested you bear in mind the following comment found in the case of Fitzell v. Rama Industries, Inc., 416 So. 2d 1246:

"We recognize that from time to time a trial judge may conduct an informal conference with a jury after it has been discharged, with the hope of developing a better understanding of those factors which may influence a jury in its deliberations. However, such conferences may not be used to delve into the factual basis for the jury's decision or to furnish a basis for a new trial or to cause the jury to alter its verdict. When a judge conducts such a conference he is acting at his peril since he may learn of factors which influenced the jury's verdict and which may be material to post-trial motions. Under no circumstances may he use the information gleaned from such post-verdict conferences to change or alter the jury's verdict."

With regards, I remain
Yours very truly,

Oliver L. Green, Jr.
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges