April 30, 1993

Opinion 93-30
Canon 2A
Badges

Dear Judge

You have asked whether there is any ethical prohibition that prevents a judge from carrying a badge as a form of identification.

Further, you state the badge is similar to other law enforcement badges and that it contains the Great Seal of the State of Florida, the name of a circuit or county, the title of judicial office, and the name of the State of Florida. You also state the badge will not be used for any improper or illegal purposes.

Eight of the ten participating Committee embers believe it would not be unethical for a judge to carry a badge for identification provided the judge never displays the badge inappropriately. Three Committee members suggest the issuance of the badge be authorized or controlled by a Chief Judge or the Florida Supreme Court. One Judge suggests that a badge in a wallet or purse should be covered with a flap so the badge is not in public view when the wallet or purse is opened.

Two dissenting Committee members believe the appearance of impropriety clearly outweighs any necessity for a badge, particularly when a photo ID card could be issued to judges. These members conclude that carrying a badge is a violation of Canon 2A ­ a judge should conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.

Four Committee members who claim many judges carry a badge believe a badge is necessary for identification and security particularly in urban counties. They cite a judge's need for identification to avoid lines and (the) embarrassment of being frisked by metal detectors and other security at the doors of many courthouses. One member states some judges need to carry a badge in addition to a concealed firearm for security. He also cites the need for a judge to have identification if the judge meets police officers at locations other than the courthouse for the purpose of issuing search warrants.

One Committee member cites Article V, Section 19 of the Florida Constitution that "all judicial officers in the state shall be conservators of the peace." Further, the Florida Attorney General in Opinion 77-79 opines that circuit judges pursuant to Florida Statutes §901.15(5) are "peace officers" authorized to make warrantless arrests for violations of the Uniform Traffic Control Law (Florida Statutes, Chapter 316).

One Committee member states that although there isn't any ethical prohibition, he could only think of a few instances when the display of a badge would not smack of impropriety.

A dissenting member states the appearance of impropriety is great when a badge is carried in a wallet or purse so that it is in plain view when the wallet or purse is opened. He states this is similar to Police Benevolent Association (PBA) shields or Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) stars that are affixed to license plates. In his county, he says it is not unusual to see Rolls Royces, Mercedes, BMWs and Jaguars that sport license plates with PBA shields and FOP stars. These plates are public displays of inappropriate selective law enforcement.

In addition, judges who display law enforcement badges may convey an image or impression that is contrary or even repugnant to the concept that the judge is a neutral and detached magistrate as contemplated by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Finally, the dissenting member states the badges are not authorized by any statute or the Florida Supreme Court. In fact, a review of Florida Statutes §843.085, (unlawful use of a police badge or other indicia of authority) indicates the Florida legislature never contemplated that judges would carry and display a law enforcement badge.

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, Levy, Kahn, Doughtie, Dell, Goldstein, Farina, Rushing and Edwards, Esq.

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