June 30, 1994
(Position on death penalty
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
RE: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your inquiry dated May 23, 1994
As a candidate for judge, you occasionally are asked your position on the death penalty. You have suggested that you would like to make the following reply, "My sworn duty as a circuit judge will be to faithfully and impartially uphold the law and that duty may include ordering a person's execution in an appropriate case. If I am ever presiding over a case in which the death penalty is sought and it is the legally appropriate punishment, I will impose it." All of our Committee members responding agree in general that you would be permitted to give the above statement but several members have suggested that the statement needs to be more carefully worded. One reading of your statement would be that you will impose the death penalty in all cases where it was legally appropriate and as such, the statement could be implied to be a predisposition to exercising your judicial discretion in favor of the death penalty.
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, Patterson , Rushing, Taylor, Tolton and Edwards, Esq.