December 19, 1995
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
Judge signing bar resolution
supporting increased filing fees
In re: Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Your Inquiry Dated 11-14-95
You ask whether you may sign a resolution of the Jacksonville Bar Association which supports an increase in circuit court filing fees, for the purpose of providing funding to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc. You are a past president of the Jacksonville Bar Association, and the resolution will be signed by all surviving past presidents.
The first concern is whether or not this is improper fundraising under Canon 5C(b)(i) and 4D(1)(2). Adding your signature to the resolution only recognizes your agreement with the issue. You will not personally be involved in and "fundraising", even if a raise in court filing fees can be labeled fundraising. You are not soliciting members or funds. A relevant opinion is 86-15, wherein it was deemed permissible for a judge to publicly promote a bond issue for the construction of a criminal justice facility.
You are making a public stand on increased funding to aid the indigent in accessing the courts. Canon 4 permits a judge to engage in activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice. This is just such an activity. Seven responding committee members feel that your signing of the resolution is permissible under the Code. Two committee members cautioned that your should not sign the resolution. These members felt that signing the resolution is an impermissible fundraising activity.
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, Rushing and Silverman