PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL

OPINION 94-48

(Senior Judge Accept Jury Assignments
(While Certified Mediator in Personal
(Personal Injury in Circuit

December 22, 1994

Re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your inquiry Dated November 17, 1994
 

As a Senior Circuit Judge and a Certified Mediator, you inquire whether you may accept an assignment to preside over a partnership dissolution jury trial where you have mediated personal injury actions in the same circuit, but no actions involving either attorney and where both sides have agreed to waive any objections in writing.

Since the current Code does not address this issue, it would be the Committee's postion that after making the above mediation disclosure and obtaining a Remittal of Disqualification pursuant to Canon 3D, you could ethically accept the assignment.

Although it is a closer question under the new Code, the Committee believes the answer remains the same. The commentary to Section B of the Application of the Code of Judicial Conduct states, "If a senior judge is rendering mediation services for compensation in civil personal injury matters, he or she should not accept a judicial assignment for that type of case in the same court where the senior judge is mediating those cases. On the other hand, the senior judge could be assigned judicial duties in other jurisdictions of that same court, e.g., criminal, family law, or probate matters...". (Emphasis supplied.)

Since you have previously mediated only personal injury cases in that circuit and the instant assignment would be for a partnership dissolution case, the seven of the eight responding members of the Committee believe you may accept the assignment. Additionally, you could accept the assignment with the disclosure and by obtaining a Remittal of Disqualification pursuant to Canon 3F.

One member felt the Committee should not respond as this was a legal, rather than an ethical question, noting: "In any event, I agree that if the law permits him to try such cases, then he
would be protected by a record waiver from the parties, as opposed to only lawyers."

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
Governing Judges

SOR:sm
CC: All Committee Members
Office of the State Courts Administrator
(Name of judge deleted from this copy)

Participating Members: Judges Doughtie, Farina, Green, Kahn, Rushing, Silverman, Taylor, Tolton