January 14, 1993

Opinion 93-1
Canons 2B, 4C and 5B(2)
Letter of support

Dear Judge


You have received a letter from the principal of your local high school alma mater requesting a letter of support from you for the placement of a prelaw magnet program at the high school. The principal states that the inception of the program will depend upon funds from a federal grant. Part of the application process includes letters of support from the community.

You inquire whether it would be appropriate for you to provide such a letter. You state that you would simply express an opinion to the effect that placement of the prelaw program at the school would be of benefit to the community at large for various reasons.

It is the consensus of seven participating committee members that pursuant to Canon 4C and the commentary to Canon 4, you may make a recommendation on the proposed program because the program may contribute to the improvement of the legal system and the administration of justice and the letter does not solicit funds. Further, the Committee does not believe a limited letter of support for a public school law program for the benefit of the community would not reasonably be considered a violation of Canon 2B, to-wit: lending the prestige of office to advance the private interest of others.

However, the Committee suggests that any letter of support contain a disclaimer that the letter is not written for the purpose of soliciting funds. The intent of the disclaimer is to avoid a Canon 5B(2) problem, to-wit: a judge should not solicit funds for any education...organization or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose. Further, one committee member expressed concern that your high school alma mater is attempting to use the prestige of your judicial office in order to obtain federal funding for the program. This member believes this may have an appearance of impropriety if there is competition for the funding.

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,

Harvey Goldstein, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges

JT/mc

cc: All Committee Members

Participating members: Judges Tolton, Green, Booth, Dell, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Clarke, Esq.

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