November 3, 1987

Opinion 87/17
Canon 5C(1)

You, as the county's only County Court Judge inquired as to whether you may rent space to the Public Defender in your Judicial Circuit, in an office building owned by you directly across the street from the Courthouse.

A recent telephone conversation with you reveals that the Public Defender is before you many and numerous times, and practically on a daily basis five days a week.

Canon 5C(1) precludes financial and business dealings reflecting adversely on the impartiality of the judge, or that involve the judge in frequent transactions with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court in which he serves. This canon further provides that the judge should manage his investments and other financial interests to minimize the number of cases in which he is disqualified.

Nine of ten members responded to your inquiry. Seven are of the opinion that because of the numerous contacts by the Public Defender with the County's only County Court Judge, you should not rent space to the Public Defender serving in your Court, and that Canon 5C(1) controls this situation. Judge Booth's well reasoned Opinion 85/8, a copy of which is attached, may also be of some assistance to you.

Two members opined that such a landlord/tenant relationship would not violate Canon 5C(1) and would not adversely reflect on the impartiality of the Judge. They also saw no reason for you to disqualify yourself.

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,

George W. Tedder, Jr.

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
Brooke S. Kennerly, Executive Director, 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