May 26, 1995
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
In re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing JudgesYour Inquiry Dated May 17, 1995
You inquire whether you and several other judges may accept complimentary $250.00 dinner tickets to attend the American Jewish Committee Dinner on June 13, 1995.
Canon 4D(2) commentary states that "A judge must not be a speaker or guest of honor at an organization's fund-raising event, but mere attendance at such an event is permissible if otherwise consistent with this Code."
Canon 5D(5)(a) states:
A judge shall not accept, and shall urge members of the judge's family
residing in the judge's household not to accept, a gift, bequest, favor
or loan from anyone except for:
(a) a gift incident to a public testimonial, books, tapes and other resource materials supplied by publishers on a complementary basis for official use, or an invitation to the judge and the judge's spouse or guest to attend a bar-related function or an activity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. (Emphasis supplied.)
Since the value exceeds $100.00, you must declare it in the Financial Disclosure Form pursuant to gift reporting requirements of Canon 6.
In Opinion 92-16, the Committee agreed that a judge could allow a newspaper columnist to pay for a judge's tickets to various social and civic affairs. However, they noted that "... it may be best to advise your escort of this problem and insist you pay for your own ticket to these affairs."
Since the dinner is an "... activity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice," the majority of the Committee believes that you may accept the complimentary ticket and attend the dinner with the understanding that you comply with the gift reporting requirements of Canon 6.
However, one concurring judge noted a caveat:
This is obviously a fund-raising event. If the funds were used for political purposes, for example, to be given to candidates for political office, the judge could not attend regardless of who paid for the tickets.
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, Green, Kahn, Lynch, Patterson, Rushing, and Cushman, Esq.