August 10, 1994
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
(Solicit in kind donations as
(chairperson of Domestic Violence Task Force
Re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your Inquiry Dated June 30 1994
This is in response to your inquiry whether you can solicit "in kind" donations as chairperson of the Domestic Violence Task Force in your circuit.
Although not directly addressed in your inquiry, with the understanding that the activities of the Domestic Violence Task Force are law related and gender neutral, the Committee would not that it has found no impropriety with service on similar board in the past. Of course, you may have to abstain on certain votes that may involve conflict of interest issues and you should be mindful of the caveat in the commentary to Canon 5B(1)(a) that "due to the changing nature of some organizations and their relationship to the law, you may need to regularly re-examine the propriety of your continued membership. Additionally, because of the high profile nature of serving as chairperson, you should be especially sensitive not to allow the misuse of the prestige of your judicial office and to refrain from any activities that might call your judicial impartiality into question.
As to the propriety of you, as chairperson, soliciting contributions for the Domestic Violence Task force in the form of "in kind" donations, in the past the Committee has advised both chairpersons and members of similar boards or committees to abstain from person fund raising and form permitting the use of the prestige of their office for that purpose pursuant to Canon 5B(2). See Opinions 88-24 (HRS Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Planning Council); 88-30 (HRS District IV Planing Council); 92-11 (Children's Service Council); 94-04 (HRS Juvenile Detention Center's Community Advisory Board) and 94-31 (District Juvenile Justice Board).
It is assumed that by "in kind" donations, you are referring to goods or services with a monetary value; i.e., a contribution of office supplies, billboard space, advertising copy or other goods or services. Since a judge should not personally solicit funds or permit the use of the prestige of his or her office to solicit funds, all participating Committee members agree that it would also be improper for you to personally solicit"in kind" contributions for the Domestic Violence Task Force. One concurring member opined that Canon 5B(2) may not proscribe solicitation of "in kind" contributions that have no monetary value. For example, although would be improper for a judge to request a celebrity to make a free appearance and to waive the celebrity's normal fee, it may be permissible to solicit a prominent local figure who does not normally charge a fee to make a public service announcement or to be a guest speaker at a meeting. But see Opinion 94-30 (where a majority of the Committee, without specifically addressing the monetary versus nonmonetary distinction, advised against personal solicitation of known personalities to donate their talents to produce a video.)
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 judges, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions by the Committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, 327 So.2d 5 (Fla. 1976).
Very truly yours,
Steve Rushing, Chairman
Committee on Standards of Conduct
CC: All Committee Members
Office of the State Courts Administrator
(Name of judge deleted from this copy)
Participating Members: Judges Dell, Doughtie, Farina, Green, Patterson, Rushing, Silverstein, Taylor, Tolton and Edwards, Esq.