April 30, 1987
Opinion No. 87/3
Participation in seminar - lending prestige of office to promotion of seminar
This letter is in response to your inquiry dated January 28, 1987. You asked for an opinion concerning the propriety of your participation in a legal seminar sponsored by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers and the University of West Florida. You also asked for an opinion as to the propriety of an advertisement promoting the seminar which features your picture and states that the seminar is sponsored by a private law firm in conjunction with the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers and University of West Florida.
A majority of the members of the Committee have responded to your inquiry. The Committee finds no prohibition in the Canons of Judicial Conduct that would prevent you from lecturing in a seminar of this nature. This question has been addressed in Opinions 82/6 and 83/7 that were furnished to you with my letter of February 27, 1987.
A majority of the Committee concluded that the advertisement creates the impression that the law firm is the sponsor of the seminar rather than the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers and the University of West Florida. Canon 2B provides:
He should not lend the prestige of his office to advance the private interest of others; nor should he convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence him.
The Committee, with one member dissenting, agreed that should you participate in further seminars of this nature that you should request that any advertisement relate the sponsorship to the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers and the University of West Florida. The promotional material should be modified to eliminate the impression that the law firm is the sponsor of the program. One member found no impropriety in the advertisement in its present form and another suggested a possible disclaimer might be sent to those who participated in the original seminar. In summary, the Committee finds no prohibition in the Canons of Judicial Conduct that would prevent you from participating in a seminar sponsored by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers and/or the University of West Florida. However, the Committee considers the advertisement that you submitted with your inquiry misleading and recommends that it be changed as set forth above.
We have based our opinion on the information furnished in your letter. The committee is expressly charged with rendering advisory opinions interpreting the application of the Code of Judicial Conduct to specific circumstances confronting or affecting a judge or judicial candidate. Its opinions are advisory to the inquiring party, to the Judicial Qualifications Commission and to the judiciary at large. Conduct that is consistent with an advisory opinion issued by the committee may be evidence of good faith on the part of the judge, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions issued by the committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct for Judges 327 So2d 5 (Fla. 1976).
We appreciate your inquiry and trust that the foregoing information will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
John W. Dell
cc: All Committee Members
Participating members: Judges Blanchard, Booth, Dell, Frank, Goldstein,
Green, Shutter, Tedder and Attorney F. Shields McManus
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