April 30, 1987
Opinion No. 87/4
Bias for or against a witness
This letter is in response to your inquiry of March 6, 1987. You asked whether you should recuse yourself in cases where a particular police officer is a witness. You explained that having heard the officer testify in other cases, that you have formed a bias against the officer's credibility.
In my initial response I directed your attention to Canon 3C and furnished you with a copy of Opinion 84/6. The participating members of the Committee concluded that you should recuse in all cases including jury trials where this police officer is a witness. One member suggested recusal only in non-jury cases or where the officer is a key witness. However, a majority of the Committee concluded that you should also recuse in a jury situation since your feelings towards this officer might become apparent to the jury.
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