December 19, 1991
(OPINION NO: 91-29
(Letter of Recommendation)
RE: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges- Your
inquiry dated October 24, 1991.
You ask whether a judge may write a letter to the Governor recommending or endorsing an individual who has applied for the position of Clerk of Circuit Court.
The Committee, by a split vote, found that such activity is proscribed, since it appears from your letter the judge would merely be lending the prestige of his office to advance the private interest of another, contrary to Canon 2. Several committee members also felt that this activity would constitute public endorsement of a candidate for public office, violative of Canon 7 (A) (1) (b) . Some members wrote that if the judge has some special or personal knowledge of the applicant, it may be appropriate to communicate this information in a factual manner to the Governor. Three members of the ten member committee, with nine members responding to your inquiry, agreed that writing such a letter is allowed since it is an activity designed to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice (Canon 4).
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 , Green , Booth , Dell , Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing, and Clarke, Esq. .
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
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
Hon. Charles McClure, Chief Judge, Second Judicial Circuit
Office of State Court Administrator, Legal Affairs & Education