April 1, 1993

Opinion 93-18
Canon 3C Disqualification-
Part-Time Judge/Traffic Magistrate's Spouse is Deputy Sheriff

Dear

You state you are a traffic magistrate hearing civil traffic infractions and recently married to an officer in your local sheriff's office. Your spouse is a member of the Mounted Unit and does not have particular supervisory duties. You ask whether you must refrain from hearing traffic tickets written by the sheriff's office.

All eight participating Committee members agree that you are not proscribed from handling traffic cases and there is no need for you to recuse yourself from cases involving the Sheriff's office.

Based on your lengthy letter, two Committee members believe you are well aware of the potential for conflict as well as the potential for the appearance of impropriety.

One member believes that the commentary to Canon 3C(1)(d) may apply as a guide:

The fact that a lawyer in a proceeding is affiliated with a law firm with which a lawyer-relative of the judge is affiliated does not of itself disqualify the judge.

This member notes that the issuance and prosecution of a traffic ticket is usually the action of an individual without any consultation or discussion with other members of the police department. He states it is obvious you should not hear cases involving your spouse or your spouse's unit if you have a close social relationship with them.

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, Doughtie, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Clarke, Esq.

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