August 7, 1990
Opinion No. 90/18
You have presented the committee with several inquiries. First, you wish to know how you may designate yourself in speeches and campaign literature. You remain in the employ of the state attorney, however, you have been placed on leave of absence.
Eight responding members of the committee concur that you may list yourself as an "assistant state attorney." It is recommended that you qualify this designation as being "on leave of absence."
Secondly, you want to know if you can make several derogatory comments about one of your opponents with respect to his/her alleged drinking problem, prior criminal investigations, and criminal convictions. You also wish to make comments concerning one of your opponent's prior employment as a public defender and the difference in your conservative philosophy as compared to his/her liberal philosophy. Additionally, you wish to comment on your ability to efficiently handle a heavy case load as compared to the inability of one or more of your opponents to do this.
Six responding committee members believe that all inquiries with respect to criticism of your opponents are contrary to Canon 7B(1)(a)(c). You may wish to refer to Opinions 84/18 and 78/6 for comparative treatment of the same general subject by the committee. Seven responding committee members believe that at least the bulk of your intended comments exceed the boundaries specified in the afore-mentioned Canon, particularly with respect to maintaining the dignity appropriate to the judicial office.
Three committee members believe you may point out your philosophical qualifications as compared to an opponent who was a former public defender, i.e., conservative vs. liberal. These committee members also believe that you may compare your ability to efficiently handle a heavy case load to your opponent's inability to accomplish this task. Two of these committee members agree that your remaining intended comments are proscribed by the Canon. The third believes you may make all of the comments mentioned, provided you use a tactful approach.
Lastly, you wish to know what to do about accepting unsolicited contributions. All committee members agree there is no actual impropriety in personally accepting unsolicited contributions, however, it is recommended that you refer such contributions to your campaign committee so as to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
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).
With regards, I remain
Yours very truly,
Oliver L. Green, 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