FLORIDA SUPREME COURT
COMMITTEE ON STANDARDS OF CONDUCT GOVERNING JUDGES

OPINION 97-24

SUBJECT: Whether an attorney may serve on an
advisory board which would oversee
a federal block grant secured by a
local police department


The inquiring judge has been requested to serve on an advisory board that would oversee a federal block grant secured by the local police department. He is concerned that his involvement may violate Canon 4D(1) because he regularly hears criminal cases in his county.

The inquiring judge has enclosed substantial materials concerning the block grant and the formation and duties of the advisory board. Number 16 of the "Special Conditions" of the U.S. Department of Justice concerning the grant is:

The recipient agrees that prior to the obligation of any funds received under the Local Law Enforcement Block Grants Program, it shall establish or designate an advisory board (that) must include a representative from --

(c) the local court system;

According to the materials provided the Committee, the local police department has arrived at a summary of expected expenditures of the grant money. These expenditures would include overtime pay for narcotics/tactical operations, purchase of patrol/tactical equipment, including bugging/surveillance equipment, night scopes, and raid equipment, and training of police department personnel in crime prevention and other areas. The board would listen to presentations from the police department and citizens regarding how the grant money should be spent. The board would also "assist and advise the police department during the entire course of the grant."

Under Canon 4D:

...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, subject to the following limitations and the other requirement s of this Code.

(1)A judge shall not serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor if it is likely that the organization

(a)will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge, or

(b)will be engaged frequently in adversary proceedings in the court of which the judge is a member or in any court subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the court of which the judge is a member.

Canon 5A requires a judge to regulate extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial duties.

The Committee finds that under Canon 4D(1) and Canon 5A, the inquiring judge should not serve on the advisory board. Service on such a board would place the judge in a position of advising on the question of how the local police department should spend its money and conduct its operations. Although such a function may be related to the administration of justice, the potential for conflict is quite high because the inquiring judge would in essence be serving as an advisor to the police department. The Committee also notes that the federal grant requires a representative from the local court system, but does not require that a criminal division judge sit on the advisory board. Accordingly, the chief judge could easily designate someone from the court administrator's office, or another appropriate person to serve on the board.

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).

Dated the 28th day of August, 1997.

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
Justice Charles T. Wells
Office of the State Courts Administrator (name of judge deleted from this copy)