March 20, 1991
Opinion No. 91-4
Canons 7 and 2
Testimony before Senate Judicial Committee on Judicial Nominee
In your oral inquiry you asked whether you could appear before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to speak in support of a nominee for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. It was understood you were not issued a subpoena to appear, but were given a letter of invitation. it was also determined that you had special knowledge of the nominee's qualifications.
The members of this Committee contacted unanimously agree that such conduct is not proscribed by the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct. Similar conduct has been addressed in Opinion 86-2, a copy of which is enclosed, which found such activity not to be violative of Canons 7A(1)(b) and 2A. All members suggested that in accordance with 86-2, your comments factually relate what you know about the nominee and be clearly and concisely stated. At least two of the members contacted expressly distinguished your inquiry from that in Opinion 89-15, which would appear to be a simple public endorsement of a candidate prohibited by Canon 7A(1)(b).
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,
Jere Tolton, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Participating Members: Judges Tolton, Booth, Dell, Doughtie, Frank, Farina, 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 .
Cynthia Grey,Director, American Judicature Society
Ms. Jean Underhill, Librarian, Broward County Law Library
Mr. Robert Wallace, Librarian, Dade County Law Library
Ms. Joan D. Cannon, Librarian, Supreme Court of Florida
William D. Wilkinson, Court Administrator, Lee County
Hon. Thomas H . Barkdull , Jr ., Third District Court of Appeal
Lynda Glyman, Esq. Center for Professional Responsibility, American Bar Association
Office of the State Courts Administrator, Legal Affairs &Education
Hon. Charles McClure, Chief Judge, Second Judicial Circuit