June 28, 1993

Opinion 93-39

(Canons 4B &4C - Activities to Improve the Administration of Justice
(Canon 5B(2) - Regulated Extrajudicial Activities to Minimize Risk of Conflict
(Canon 5G - Extrajudicial Appointment - Appearance before County Commission to Appeal for (Funds Allocated by Advisory Committee

Re: Committee on Standard of Conduct Governing Judges.


You state that the Committee Opinion 92-12 "regarding judges serving on certain county advisory committees appears to be in direct conflict with what appears to be acceptable behavior when serving of a state advisory committee such as the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Council, and has raised concerns regarding several local county advisory committees that have a Chief Judge or his designee as a member by ordinance. Advisory committees on jail population, criminal justice, criminal justice information systems, mental health, children's council, and substance abuse all have as a permanent member the Chief Judge or his/her designee by ordinance or resolution. Each committee pursuant to the ordinance, or in an attempt to comply with federal requirements for funding, has such a member and makes funding recommendaitons [sic] to the County Council."

The specific question in Opinion 92-12 was "can a judge who is a member of an advisory committee established by the county council participate in activities which include publicly addressing the county council in order to solicit amounts of additional funding for said advisory committee when the funds will be recommended for allocation by the advisory committee to specific community organizations?"

The majority of the Committee believes that a judge normally should not appear before a county commission or other legislative body on behalf of a nonjudicial advisory committee. These committee members believe that Canon 4B only permits public appearances before legislative bodies to ask for funds on matters concerning the legal system and the administration of justice and in particular issues or programs within the judicial budget.

Two committee members believe that Canon 4 and the commentary to Canon 4 allows judges to appear before legislative bodies to urge funding for programs that are not in the judicial budget but are related to the administration of justice such as funding for mental health programs.

Also the majority of the Committee agrees that judges can serve on advisory committees, commission or councils pursuant to Canon 4C to improve the administration of justice in it broadest sense. They believe that a judge should not participate, if such participation would create a conflict of interest or detract from judicial impartiality such as proscribed by Canons 5B (1) and 5G.

The question whether a judge is prohibited from serving on governmental advisory committees that review funding proposals and make recommendations regarding the allocation of funds is a question the needs to be addressed on a case by case basis. If the group or organization applying for the funds is a group or organization that would ordinarily come before the judge or will regularly engage in adversary proceedings in any court, the judge is prohibited by Canon 5B (1) from voting on the funding proposals (see prior Committee Opinion 92-11).

The commentary to Canon 4 states that a judge is in a unique position to contribute to the improvement of the administration of justice, particularly the criminal and juvenile justice. The majority of the committee interprets that to mean a judge can help develop of draft plans and proposals for programs that impact on the judicial system, particularly in the area of sentencing and rehabilitation.

The Office of the State Courts Administrator's legal staff has prepared a summary of committee opinions on memberships on various committees and boards. I have enclosed a copy of the summary for your guidance. The most relevant opinions are 87-30 (sic), 87-20, 86-6 (rejected by the Florida Supreme Court), 85-10, 82-01, 81-06, 79-13, 77-09, 76-21, 75-32, 73-6, 73-4.

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
Office of State Court Administrator (name of Judge deleted from this copy)

Participating members: Judges Booth, Levy, Doughtie,Green, Farina, Goldstein, Rushing Tolton and Edwards, Esq.