FLORIDA SUPREME COURT
JUDICIAL ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE
OPINION 97-28


Date Issued: October 16, 1997

 

SUBJECT
Advertisement featuring a judge to inspire others to consider higher education.

ISSUE
May a judge authorize his college alma mater to feature him in an advertising campaign which is not used to generate funding, but which profiles successful alumni in order to inspire others to consider higher education?

Answer: Yes. However, the Committee cautions the judge not to permit his name or photograph or the prestige of his office to be used for the solicitation of funds. One member of the Committee concludes that the judge should not appear in the advertisement.

FACTS
The judge's college alma mater is planning a marketing campaign designed to heighten the public's awareness of the accessibility and value of higher education. As a part of the campaign, the college will feature high profile and successful alumni, whose experience at the college may inspire others to consider higher education. The ad will include the judge's picture with a brief biographical narrative of his experiences at the College. The ads will not be used for fund raising purposes.

DISCUSSION
The inquiring judge seeks our opinion as to whether he may loan his name and likeness to his college alma mate for an ad campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to inspire others to seek higher education. It will not be used for fund raising.

Canon 5B of the Code of Judicial Conduct regulates a judge's avocations activities. It provides, "A judge may speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other extrajudicial activities concerning no-legal subjects, subject to the requirements of this Code." (Emphasis added). Canon 5A directs the manner in which a judge may engage in extra-judicial activities, and provides:

A judge shall conduct all of the judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do not: (1) cast doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge; (2) demean the judicial office; or (3) interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties.

In Opinion 78-9, a judge inquired whether he could ethically become a member of the Florida State University Alumni Association and authorize the use of his name and photograph by the Association "to assist the Association in promoting memberships." The funds from the memberships were to be used to expand programs for both the alumni and university, as well as for activation new alumni clubs throughout the country.

The Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges noted that a judge is permitted to participate in civic and charitable activities that neither reflect adversely upon the judge's impartiality nor interfere with the performance of judicial duties. In so doing, the Committee found no impropriety in publishing the judge's name and photograph; however it held that the judge's name or photograph or prestige of his office could not be used for the solicitation of funds.

This holding is consistent with Canon 4D(2)(d), which provides that a judge "shall not use or permit to use of the prestige of judicial office for fund-raising or membership solicitation."

One member of the Committee member (sic) respectfully suggests that the judge decline the offer to be featured in the advertisement. He agrees with the majority's analysis of Canon 5A and B, but questions "how do we get around the provision of Canon 2(b) which states a judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of others?'" The Committee members states that the "obvious reason the college wishes to profile the judge is to profit from his position of esteem."

A majority of this Committee finds that a judge may authorize his college alma mater to feature him in an advertising campaign, which is not used to generate funding. However, the Committee cautions the judge to be vigilant so that neither his name nor photograph not the prestige of his office is used to solicit funds.

REFERENCES
Florida Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 5a and 5B and 4D(2)(d).

Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, Opinion 78-9 (May 3, 1978)

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 Governing Judges, 327 So. 2d 5 (Fla. 1976). For further information contact The Honorable Scott Silverman, Chairman, Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, The Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building, 1351 NW 12th Street, #513, Miami, Florida 33125


Participating Members: Judges Green, Charles J. Kahn, Lisa D. Kahn, Patterson, Rushing, Silverman, Tolton and Attorney Novicki

Copies furnished to:
All Committee Members
All members of the J.Q.C.
Justice Charles T. Wells
Office of the State Courts Administrator (name of judge deleted from this copy)