January 26, 1993
Canons 4C, 5B, 2A
Honorary membership on Joint Medical and Trial Lawyer Committee
You state that you have been asked by your local trial lawyers association to serve as an honorary judicial member of a committee formed by your local medical association and trial lawyers association. The joint committee was created for the purpose of fostering improved relations between the medical and legal professions.
You have asked for an advisory opinion regarding the propriety of a judge serving on this committee.
Canon 5B states a Judge may participate in civic activities that "do not reflect adversely upon his impartiality or interfere with the performance of his judicial duties." Further, a Judge may serve as an officer, director, etc. of a civic organization not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members. However, a Judge should not serve if the organization will be engaged in adversary proceedings in any court.
Further, Canon 4C states a Judge may serve as a member of an organization dedicated to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice.
Five members of the Committee are concerned that given the limited information provided there may be a perception of impropriety. Among some people and more particularly among members of the press, medical associations and the trial lawyers' associations are sometimes perceived to be organizations conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members.
Your inquiry does not state that the purpose of the committee is to improve the administration of justice. Instead, you state the purpose of the committee is to improve relations between two sometimes competing interest groups.
Further you state that your membership would be honorary. That fact raises concern that the medical/lawyer committee may be using the prestige of your judicial office to advance private interests.
All participating Committee members would find no appearance of impropriety in your membership if you were going to be a working member of a medical/legal committee to improve the administration of justice such as procedures for depositions, trial appearances, etc.
Three Committee members have state you have provided insufficient information to provide you with a definitive response to your inquiry.
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
cc: All Committee Members
Participating members: Judges Tolton, Green, Booth, Dell, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Clarke, Esq.
Office of State Court Administrator, Legal Affairs &Education