February 3, 1993
Speaking to Partisan Political Group
You have stated that you have been invited by a local Women's Republican Club (mostly retired ladies) to speak at a monthly luncheon on the court system.
It is the unanimous opinion of the Committee that Canon 7A of the Code prohibits your appearance and speech before a partisan political group because you are not a candidate for election. Prior Committee opinions 88/9, 87/6 and 74/3 have set forth the same opinion. In opinion 74/3, the Committee opined that there is a question of how educational an educational speech would be or appear to be in a partisan political setting.
Two Committee members expressed concern whether Canon 7A's restrictions on a Judge's First Amendment rights could pass constitutional muster. However, one Committee member noted that the Florida Supreme Court in a recent 5-1 opinion found Canon 7A to be constitutional in regard to its restriction that prohibits a Judge from publicly endorsing a candidate for office. In Re Code of Judicial Conduct. (Canons 1, 2 and 7A(1)(b), 17 FLW 5550 (July 23, 1992). In this opinion the Supreme Court opined that maintaining the impartiality, the independence from political influence, and the public image of the judiciary as impartial and independent is a compelling government interest that justifies restrictions on a judge's exercise of First Amendment rights.
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, Levy, Dell, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Clarke, Esq.
Office of State Court Administrator, Legal Affairs &Education