SUBJECT: Clarification of Opinion 95-24
Regarding soliciting or encouraging
attorney to apply to the JNC
The inquiring judge has requested clarification of Committee Opinion 95-24. The inquiring judge is particularly concerned with the final paragraph of that opinion which advises that judges should not directly solicit attorney to apply to the judicial nominating commission.
With two members dissenting, the Committee has now determined to recede from that portion of Opinion 95-24 suggesting that a judge should not directly solicit or encourage attorneys to apply to the judicial nomination commission. Past Committee opinions have consistently held that a judge may provided unsolicited information to a judicial nominating commission about a person whose application is pending before that commission. Opinions 86-2, 87-23, 88-1, 89-15. Opinion 95-24 also allows judges to initiate such communication. The Committee has now determined that mere suggestion or encouragement from a sitting judge to a judicial nominating commission application is not a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Any judge wishing to do this, however, must be mindful of Canon 2B which provides, "a judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interest of the judge or others..." Accordingly, the Committee believes that any judge who decides to encourage or solicit a lawyer to apply for a judicial vacancy should take reasonable steps towards assuring that such conversation remain private.
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 judge, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the interpretive opinions issued by the committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct for Judges, 327 So.2d 5 (Fla.1976).
Charles J. Kahn, Jr.
Chairman, Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges
Participation Members: Judges Cardonne, Dell, Green, C. Kahn, L. Kahn, Patterson, Rushing, Silverman, Smith, Tolton and Attorney Novicki
cc: All Committee Members
Office of the State Courts Administrator (name of judge deleted from this copy)
Editor's note: The original opinion does not contain the date on which the opinion was issued.