February 2, 1988
Judge communicating with governor
regarding a person nominated for judicial office
Re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges - Inquiry dated October 28, 1987
In your letter of October 28, 1987, you asked the Committee on Standards of Judicial Conduct Governing Judges for its opinion on the following question:
"May a Judge communicate wht the Governor concerning a person whose nominatiuon for judicial office is pending before the Governor?"
I have made you aware of Opinions 82/8 and 86/2. I feel that Opinion 86/2 is highly relevant to your question and controls this matter. I see no difference in a Judge communication with the Governor about a person whose application for appointment to a judicial office is pending before him and a Judge communication with a Judicial Nomination Commission about a person whose application for judicial office is pending before that Commission.
Eight of the ten members of the Committee responded to your enquiry and one member is of the opinion that a Judge may communicate with a local Commission rearding application for nomination to the Governor. That member also opined that once the names are sent to the Governor's office, the process becomes more political and therefore communication with the Governor's office is improper.
Seven of the eight responding members answered your inquiry in the affirmative.
You may communicate a factual, even handed, succinct and discreet statement in support of, or in opposition to, a person whose appointment is pending before the Governor.
One of the concurring members did caution that judicial office should not be used to endorse a candidate or applicant. Furnishing of information may indirectly result in endorsement or non endorsement, but at least where based on personal knowledge and information, the impartingof information serves the judicial system if properly done as indicated above. This member would be extremely reluctant to voluntarily furnishinformation to the Governor or the Judicial Nominating Commission unless that member was very familiar with the particular individual and had unique knowledge or information concerning that individual's qualifications.
We appreciate your inquiry and trust that the foregoing information will be of some assistance to you.
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).
Very truly yours,
George W. Tedder, Chairman
cc: All Committee Members
Participating Members: Judges Blanchard, Booth, Dell, Frank, Goldstein, Green, 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