July 18, 1994
(Fund raising for public school
RE: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your inquiry dated May 31, 1994
You have written our Committee for an opinion on six questions concerning the extent to which you or your Court Administrator can become involved in helping fund a court system project to create and produce a Juvenile Justice Education Video to be used in public schools.
Your questions are:
1. It is my understanding that various business in this area are willing to contribute to the cost of creating the videotapes. May I solicit contributions either directly, or through writing a guest article for the local newspapers?
2. If I may not, can Court Administrator in this circuit do so?
3. It has been suggested that a recognizable personality be used as the on-camera narrator for the videotapes. May I use contacts that I have to attempt to solicit the participation of known personalities in the production, without charge as a public service?
4. If I cannot do so, can the Court Administrator with in this circuit do so?
5. May I solicit contributions that are offered without any solicitation?
6. A variety of charitable organizations exist both in and outside Florida. May I submit a grant request to any of those agencies to obtain funding for this project?
Generally, the Committee believes the project is clearly laudable and permissible under Canon 4A and that you may assist in the leadership and management of the project. The Committee's specific response to each question is as follows:
1. Although you may write a guest article for a local newspaper concerning the project, you may not personally solicit contributions either directly or indirectly in the quest article pursuant to Canon 4C, a judge ",,,should not personally participate in public fund raising activities" and Canon 5B(2), "a judge should not solicit funds for any educational organization..."
2. If a judge cannon engage in the conduct, neither can the Court Administrator, since the Court Administrator's Office is under the "direction and control" of the judiciary and is required pursuant to Canon 3B(2) "to observe the standards of fidelity and diligence" that apply to the judge. See also Opinion 93-29 where the Committee prohibited court/staff fund raising as being too closely associated with judicial office. Additionally, the Court Administrator may be prohibited form soliciting such funds by the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees in Section 112.313, Florida Statutes.
3. Five of the eight participation Committee members believe you may not personally solicit the participation of known personalities to donate their talents pursuant to Canons 5B(2) and 5C(1), "a judge should refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to ...exploit his judicial position". Additionally, such contributions could be considered a "favor" under Canon 5C(4).
Three members, using examples of judges asking people to participate as speakers for Inns of Court programs or investiture ceremonies, felt that you could use your contacts to gain the voluntary participation on known personalities in producing the videos, provided that you do not use your position to seek any special favor.
4. Five of the participating committee members felt that since you cannot solicit known personalities for the production, the Court Administrator cannot either. Three members felt that since you can participate, so can the Court Administrator.
5. The majority of the Committee members believe that you should not "personally" accept even "unsolicited" contributions, pursuant to the admonition of Canon 4C the a judge "...should not personally participate in public fund raising activities. Three members suggested that it would be proper for an administrative entity involved in the project, rather that you personally, to accept the "unsolicited" contributions.
6. The majority of the Committee found that you may not personally submit a grant request because you may be violating Canon 5B(1), but that you would be able to assist behind the scenes and make recommendations with respect to grant requests pursuant to Canon 4C and even write a supporting letter with an appropriate "non-fund raising" disclaimer pursuant to Committee Opinion 93-1. Pointing to various pilot projects that have been undertaken by "the courts" throughout the state that have been funded by various grants, three members specifically suggest the proper course may be to apply for the grant using available administrative vehicles.
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,
Steve Rushing, 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, Green, Patterson , Rushing, Taylor, Tolton and Edwards, Esq.