March 2, 1995
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
(Clarification Canon 7C(1)
In re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your Inquiry Dated January 11, 1995
As an attorney who is a candidate for a judicial seat in the 1996 election and who has opened a campaign account and formed a campaign committee prior to the effective date of the new Code, you raise many of the same questions addressed in Opinion 95-2.
In light of Opinion 95-2, seven members of the Committee propose your questions be addressed as follows:
1. Does the amended Code apply to candidates and committees established before January 1, 1995 or are those candidates in essence "grandfathered" in, being bound by the predecessor code of conduct?
As of January 1, 1995, the amended Code applied to all candidates and committees, even those established before January 1, 1995.
2. If the new rule does not apply to my candidacy, am I correct in assuming that I may continue with expenditures and campaign activities in furtherance of my candidacy?
Pursuant to Opinion 95-2, this Committee's position is that the new Code does apply and that you should not continue with expenditures in furtherance of your candidacy from January 1, 1995 until one year before the general election in November 1996. It should be noted that candidates for judicial office may never personally solicit or collect contributions.
3. If the new rule does not apply to my candidacy, may I make any changes
to or add committee members after January 1, 1995?
Since the new Code does apply, you should not make any changes to or add to committee members between January 1, 1995 and November 1995.
4. If the new rules do apply, then I would respectfully request clarification on what limitations on my campaign committee and myself apply for items and material printed and organized prior to January 1, 1995?
Although technically it could be argued that using previously purchased materials would not be "expending funds" after January 1, 1995, the goal of Canon 7C(1) is to give all judicial candidates only one year to establish committees to solicit contributions or public support. Thus, since other candidates should not purchase materials and use them without establishing a committee during this time, candidates who had pre established committees should not either.
One member of the majority did point that "... I am still of the opinion that we should point out that the directive concerning the expenditure of funds is a "should" and not a "shall".
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, Silverman, Taylor, and Tolton