September 24, 1987
This letter is in response to your inquiry dated June 3, 1987. In you District several research aides (law clerks) have in the past and re currently active in Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) and Citizens Dispute Settlement Project (Citizens Dispute).
Volunteer lawyers serve VLP which is primarily a screening service for subsequent attorney referral and/or taking pro bono cases. Citizens Dispute is a mediation service and virtually all mediators are non-lawyers. Most Citizens Dispute sessions are confidential unless the parties agree otherwise.
Participating research aides working for VLP are limited to clinics and they take no pro bono cases. Research aides who assist in Citizens Dispute work only at night and this does not conflict with their Court duties.
You requested the Committee's opinion on the ethical considerations and propriety of the above mentioned activities. All of the members of the Committee have answered your inquiry and a majority indicate that the Judicial Canons do not prohibit the enumerated volunteer activities of the research aides.
Three members did have the opinion that Canon 2 concerns these activities and that these activities are not appropriate because of their reflections on the Judicial office itself. They recommend that the clerk who performed services connected with a matter coming before the Court should disqualify himself and that the entire Judicial suite of the particular aide, including the Judge and other clerks, should disqualify themselves.
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, Turner 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