July 26, 1991
Opinion No. 91-13
Letter of recommendation
You inquire whether you and other judges may write letters of recommendation for a law clerk who is applying for a vacant position on the Public Service Commission. You further mention the law clerk has assisted you and other judges on various matters in the past.
All committee members contacted agreed this proposed activity as outlined in your inquiry is proscribed by Canon 2(B) in that it could lend the prestige of your office to advance the private interests of another. A majority of the committee members said they would feel differently if this was a letter of recommendation regarding activity designed to improve the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice, e.g., a judicial nominating commission. Others said it would be permissible to write such letters if the applicant was an employee working directly under the judge who had peculiar knowledge of his or her employment capabilities. Further, there appears to be nothing wrong in a judge merely responding factually to an inquiry from the Public Service Commission Nominating Council.
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 Green, Tolton, Booth, Dell, Frank, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing, 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