May 25, 1989

Opinion No. 89/7
Subject matter not within the committee's jurisdiction

Dear Judge

In your inquiry you ask whether you would violate the Code of Judicial Conduct if you were to enter a judgment knowing it would award money to a law firm as reimbursement for expenditures the law firm should not have undertaken.

A further question is whether you should advise the judge who succeeds you in the pending matter of your concern with the potentially unethical behavior of the law firm.

Eight members of the committee have expressed the view that your inquiry does not fall within the scope of the committee's assigned responsibility. It is evident that you have fulfilled the duty prescribed in Canon 3B(3) in bringing this matter to the attention of the appropriate grievance committee.

One member of the committee has expressed the view that entering a judgment upon the default could create the appearance of endorsing the law firm's failure to comply with the appropriate ethical standard. This member believes that entry of the judgment should be withheld pending the outcome of the disciplinary proceeding.

In agreeing with the majority view, one member reports an uncomfortable feeling in advising a judge on a matter related to the execution of his or her duties. One responding member has stated that you should advise the successor judge of your concern with the entry of the default judgment.

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).

Cordially yours,

Richard H. Frank, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges

cc: All Committee Members

Participating Members: Judges Green, Tolton, Booth, Dell, Doughtie,Frank, Shutter, Goldstein, and Clarke, Esquire.

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. Walter K. Stapleton, 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
Mr. Richard Kuhn, Court Administrator, Lee County
Hon. Thomas H . Barkdull , Jr ., Third District Court of Appeal
Ms. Georgeanne Marsh, Center for Professional Responsibility, American Bar Association