February 10, 1994
Personal and Confidential
Canon 5(b)- Member of Advisory Council
Women's Business Development Center at
Florida International University
Re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your inquiry dated December 17, 1993
You write that you have been asked to become a member of the Advisory Council of the Women's Development Center at Florida International University. Your involvement would be of an advisory nature interrelating with committee members and students involved in the study of business and the ways in which they can create new businesses, particularly for women. One concern you had was that service on this advisory council could possibly be interpreted as lending the prestige of your office to advance the private interests of other (sic). Eight members of our Committee have commented on your question and six find that service on the advisory committee would be ethically permitted. Two of those six members assume that the primary mission of the Women's Business Development Center is to educate its participants on general business topics and to present speakers and other resource persons through the advisory council to share their experiences and general views on setting and achieving business goals. These Committee members would find a problem if the advisory council was providing specific business leads or advice tailored to meet the specific needs of individuals. None of the Committee members were concerned with the concept of your being and "honorary" member whose only function would be to lend your name to the Council. Two members of our Committee find that your service would be a conflict with Canon 5(b) which states that a judge may serve as an officer, etc. of an educational, religious, charitable or fraternal or civic organization not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members. These Committee members find that the Women's Business Development Center Advisory Board is created for the promotion of the economic advantage of a particular group. They feel that it is a civic group organized to improve the economic or political position of a certain gender and, therefore, a judge's participation would not be permitted. As a cautionary note, we would point out that the changing nature of some organizations and of their relationship to the law makes it necessary for a judge regularly to re-examine the activities of each organization with which the judge is affiliated to determine if it is proper to continue the relationship. The boards of some organizations may make policy decisions that may have political significance or may imply commitment to causes that may come before the courts for adjudication. Our Committee has advised judges not to belong to organizations that are emotionally-charged action groups.
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).
Very truly yours,
Nath C. Doughtie, 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 Doughtie, Goldstein, Green, Kahn, Patterson, Rushing, Taylor and Edwards, Esq.