December 19, 1995
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
Attendance at Mothers Against
Drunk Driving Vigil
In re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your Inquiry Dated October 20, 1995
You ask whether you can attend a Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD) candlelight vigil. The purpose of the vigil is to recognize and remember the victioms of impaired drivers. It is not a fundraining event. You will not be participationg in any way except as and attendee, and your attendance will not be announced.
The relevant canons are 5A and 5B. Canon 5A provides that:
A judge shall conduct all of the judge's extra-judicial activities so tht they do not
(1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge;
(2) demean the judicial office
(3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties.
Canon 5B provides that : "A judge may...participate in other extrajudicial activities concerning non-legal subject, subject to the requirements of this Code."
Mere attendance at this MADD vigil does not run afoul of these Code provisions. The vigil recognizes the victims of impaired drivers. It is not an event calling for changes in the law, such as harsher penalties for impaired drivers. Due to the non-advocatory nature of this vigil, all eight responding committee members agree that your lpresence would not run against the Code. Three members stressed that you should consider not attending if you will be given any type of special recognition for your attendance.
Opinion 92-34 held that the Code did not prohibit a felony judge form attending ceremonies held by law enforcement agencies during Law Enforcement Recognition Week to honor officers killed in the line of duty. Many of the concerns that might be raised by your attendance at the MADD vigil would be raised in this situatio as well, i.e. That the judge may be more inclined to rule more harshly on those appearing before him or her. Some Committee members in 92-34 suggested that the judge not attend the ceremonies if the judge were presiding over the case involving the death of the police officer being honored.
As Justice Cardozo said it so well:
"The great tides and currents which engulf the rest of men do not turn aside in their course and pass the judges by."
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,
Oliver L. Green, Jr., 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 Cardonne, Dell, Doughtie, Green, C. Kahn, L. Kahn, Patterson and Rushing