March 25, 1992
(OPINION NO: 92-14
(Conflict of interest
RE: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges - Your inquiry dated January 22, 1992
You ask whether there is a conflict between your duties as a non-paid traffic magistrate and your position as a salaried assistant county attorney. Specifically you are concerned a portion of the fees and costs you impose as a traffic magistrate eventually help pay your salary as an assistant county attorney.
A majority of the committee does not see this as a conflict, comparing it to County Court Judges imposing civil penalties, part of which goes to the source of their income, the State General Revenue Fund. Since this is authorized by Statute, the majority responded this presumably does not constitute a conflict of interest.
Two members of the committee disagreed with this analogy, seeing a distinction between your case and others, since all of your salary, not just a part, is derived from the very civil penalties you impose. Two members were concerned there were other circumstances causing conflicts.
In summary, although a conflict may not exist because your paid position is funded by fees and costs you impose as a traffic magistrate, there may be other circumstances which produce conflicts between the two positions.
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, 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