July 13, 1990
Opinion No. 90/16
Campaign activities associated with partisan political meeting
In your inquiry you have posed the following questions:
1. A. Can a non-partisan judicial candidate, who is not invited for the
purpose of speaking as to his candidacy go to the premises upon which a
political party is holding a political meeting and stand at the doorway
wearing his judicial candidate's badge for the purpose
of greeting the delegates and party members on their exit?
B. In other words, can the non-partisan judicial candidate "give
the appearance" of having attended a meeting of a specific political
2. A. Can a non-partisan judicial candidate, who has not been invited for the purpose of speaking as to his candidacy, attend a luncheon of presidents of various clubs for a political party for the purpose of displaying his judicial candidate's badge and informing of his candidacy?
B. If the answer to the foregoing question is in the affirmative, can the lunch ticket be paid from the candidate's campaign account?
3. Can a non-partisan judicial candidate, who has not been invited for the purpose of speaking as to his candidacy, attend a dinner dance sponsored by a partisan club for the purpose of entertainment and displaying his badge, as well as informing the patrons of his candidacy?
4. Can a non-partisan judicial candidate purchase with funds contributed
to his campaign account advertising space for a candidacy in a partisan
club magazine or publication related to a
partisan function, as long as the ad makes no reference to any endorsement of the candidate?
5. Can a non-partisan judicial candidate meet privately with leaders of various partisan groups or associations for the purpose of requesting an invitation to speak on his own behalf at future partisan functions?
6. When addressing an audience, can a non-partisan judicial candidate who is asked a direct question, "What political party are you registered with?" respond to the question? (It is an unsatisfactory and evasive reply to give the response that you are running in a non-partisan race.)
The Committee has considered your inquiry and has determined that each of the questions you have posed must be answered in the negative. To insure against any misunderstanding arising from existing Committee opinions which may appear to be in conflict with this response, the Committee has adopted the following interpretation of Canon 7:
Normally a judge is prohibited from attending a partisan political function. Thus, an unopposed incumbent merit retention judge, an incumbent elected judge or a judicial candidate may engage in only those activities referred to in Canon 7B(3). Such activities do not include appearing at or speaking before partisan political functions.
A judicial candidate in a contested election, reelection or retention election my, however, attend a political party function to speak in behalf of his or her candidacy or on a matter that relates to the law, the improvement of the legal system, or the administration of justice. The function must not be a fund-raiser, and the invitation to speak must also include the other candidates for that office. The candidate is to disclaim any affiliation with the political party sponsoring the event, with any political issue, or with any other candidate. A judicial candidate attending a political party function must conduct himself or herself in a manner which does not suggest or create the appearance of suggesting support of the political party, a political issue, or another candidate. Conduct limited to that described above does not constitute participation in a partisan political party activity.
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).
Richard H. Frank, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Participating Members: Judges Green, Tolton, Goldstein, Dell, Booth, Doughtie,Frank, Simons, Shutter 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
Judson Orrick, 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 .
Deborah Solomon, American Judicature Society
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
Lynda Glyman, Center for Professional Responsibility, American Bar Association