March 1, 1993
Canon 7A and 7A(4)
Appearance and speech before political group by nominee for appointment by Governor
You state that you have been nominated by your circuit's judicial nominating commission for appointment by the Governor to the Circuit Court. Your local Democratic county executive committee has requested that you and five other nominees for appointment appear before the executive committee for an interview for the purpose of recommendation by the committee to the Governor. The committee's invitation states that the interview will be limited to a discussion of qualifications and background and not political philosophy or political beliefs.
All participating Committee members agree that Canon 7A and particularly 7A(4) prohibits your appearance before a political group for the purpose of an endorsement. Although appointment by the Governor may be a political process, you are not a candidate for election. Therefore, an appearance before a political group as described is not an exception to the intent of Canon 7. A judge should refrain from political activity inappropriate to judicial office.
In An Aid to Understanding Canon 7, prepared by this Committee and published by the Office of the State Courts Administrator, July 1990, page 3-3, we stated that "the purpose of Canon 7 and Section 105.071, Florida Statutes, is to preserve the nonpartisan status of the judiciary, its independence and to prevent the lending of the prestige of judicial office to a political party..."
Further, Florida Statutes §105.09 states that "no political party or partisan political organization shall endorse, support or assist any candidate in campaign for election to judicial office." However, see Concerned Democrats of Fla. v. Reno, D.C. 458 F. Supp. 60 (1978), for an opinion that finds this statute to be an infringement of the First Amendment.
The Committee congratulates you if you have been appointed or wishes you and the other nominees good luck if the Governor hasn't yet announced his appointment.
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, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Clarke, Esq.
Office of State Court Administrator, Legal Affairs &Education