March 23, 1994
(Judges meeting with groups of
(citizens to discuss criminal
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
RE: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your inquiry dated February 17, 1994
You have asked for our Committee's opinion concerning a proposed meeting between a group of county judges and a group of concerned citizens for the purpose of discussing a specific type of criminal activity within the court's jurisdiction which is perceived by the citizens to be a significant community problem. The topic relates to illegal sex related misdemeanor crimes.
With one exception, all of our Committee members find that there would be no ethical problem in a judge or judges meeting with members of the community to discuss sentencing in general or even sentencing within a narrow area. Your letter does not request an opinion concerning what would or would not be ethical comment at these meetings so we did not address the issue. Obviously judges should avoid committing themselves to a decided course of legal action in specific types of cases certain to come before them. One Committee member feels that simply by meeting with an obviously partisan group, a judge's reputation for impartiality and independence would be placed in jeopardy.
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 So.2d 5 (Fla.1976).
Very truly yours,
Nath C. Doughtie, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
cc: All Committee Members
Office of the Courts Administrator (name of judge deleted from this copy)
Participating members: Judges Doughtie, Farina , Goldstein, Green, Kahn, Patterson , Rushing, Taylor, Tolton and Edwards, Esq.