June 30, 1994
(Speak at public meeting
(sponsored by United We Stand
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
RE: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your inquiry dated May 20, 1994
You have requested an opinion from our Committee concerning an invitation you have received to speak at an open public meeting sponsored by "United We Stand". You have enclosed material from this organization explaining that it is not a political party and does not sponsor candidates and operates on a non-partisan basis. The obvious problem that you have is that "United We Stand" was closely identified with the campaign of Ross Perot. Six members of our committee concur that you may appear before this organization and give a talk. One of our dissenting members was concerned that you would be giving a talk "for the organization" which would be in violation of Canon 7(1)(b). The majority of our Committee assumes that your talk would focus on the functions of our courts and related matters. The majority also assumes that the organization, although political in nature, would be akin to Common Cause or the League of Women Voters and that a judge could appear before an organization of this nature and give a talk. Three members feel that since the organization is political in nature, and may be perceived by the public as being a political party, that you should not appear. There is also a continuing problem with public perception. Even though an organization's by-laws may proscribe certain activities, the actual practices of the organization may differ, thus placing a judge in an awkward position.
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.