March 30, 1995
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
(Serve on Private
(School Advisory Board
In re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your Inquiry Dated January 31, 1995
You inquire whether a judge may serve on an advisory board providing curriculum advice for a private court reporting school that is seeking accreditation and that has no direct business relationship with the court or court reporting firms.
Canon 4(C) states: "A judge may serve as a member, officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor of an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice..".
In Opinions 77-6 and 80-1, the Committee found it permissible for judges to serve on the Board of Directors of a Community College Foundation and as a member of the Trustee Board of a community college, with the caveat to avoid fund-raising activities. Opinions 79-18 and 90-21 found it permissible to serve on the board of directors of a "self sustaining, non-sectarian" high school educational institution and a high school foundation.
In Opinion 93-23 this Committee, with several caveats, found that a judge could serve as a member of the board of directors of a local DUI countermeasures school pursuant to Canon 4C. In Opinions 88-24 and 88-30 the Committee held that judges may serve on Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health District Planning Councils.
Therefore, six members of the Committee agree that a judge may serve on the advisory board for a private court reporting school, with the caveat that he does not allow the prestige of his office to be used for accreditation purposes, fund-raising, or to build a direct business relationship with the court.
One dissenting judge stated as follows: "From the scant information he provided, this appears to be a business for profit which does not fall within the same categories of the opinions cited."
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 Doughtie, Farina, Green, Kahn, Patterson, Rushing, and Silverman