March 25, 1992
(OPINION NO: 92-13
(Canon 7(B)(3) and 3(A)(6)
(Response to criticism
RE: Committee on Standards of conduct Governing Judges - Your inquiry dated February 4, 1992
You ask the extent you may respond to criticism directed at you following an emotional visitation case on which you recently ruled. You mention an organization is widely distributing literature opposing your re-election and appearing on a radio talk show threatening opposition to your re-election. In addition, a local major newspaper is highly publicizing the case. You specifically want to know whether such activity is sufficient to consider your re-election as opposed, and if so, may you engage in all activities to the extent a judge with a named opponent could. Further, you want to know the extent you may discuss the merits or facts of the case if questioned concerning same.
Nine members of the ten member committee responded and unanimously agreed you have received active opposition and your re-election my be opposed. Therefore, you may, in accordance with Canon 7(B)(3), engage in all activities to the same extent a judge may with a named opponent. However, since the case is ongoing, you are proscribed from discussing the merits or facts of the case if questioned. Canon 3(A)(6) prohibits a judge from public comment in any proceeding, pending or impending, before any court.
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, Levy, Booth, Dell, 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