March 23, 1993
Pro Bono Implementation Rules
Canon 2A - Impartiality of judiciary
Canon 5F - Prohibition against the practice of law
Some time ago, you inquired whether a judge may offer free legal services to the indigent as contemplated by the proposed Pro Bono implementation rules drafted by the Florida Bar/Florida Bar Foundation Joint Commission on Delivery of Legal Services to the Indigent in Florida. Further, you asked what type of legal services may a judge provide to an indigent to satisfy the proposed Pro Bono Rules.
All members of the Committee agree that your questions are premature and beyond the jurisdiction of this Committee because your inquiry is not about contemplated judicial conduct. The proposed rules have not been adopted by the Supreme Court.
Further, one Committee member notes the Supreme Court has previously recognized that any implementation rules must address the conflict and ethical restraints judges have to their participation in a pro bono program. Another member notes the proposed rules provide alternatives to pro bono legal services, such as a contribution of $350.00 to a legal aid organization.
Three members expressed concern that Canon 5F, "a judge shall not practice law" may apply to the proposed rules.
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