Opinion Number: 97-36
Date of Issue: February 5, 1998
JUDGE MAKING FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE OF APPICABLE GIFTS RECEIVED JOINTLY WITH HER SPOUSE WHICH WERE PREVIOUSLY DISCLOSED TO THE PUBLIC BY HER NON-JUDGE SPOUSE
Must a judge make financial disclosure of applicable gifts she received jointly with her non-judge spouse even though the gifts were previously disclosed to the public in the spouseís quarterly public disclosures?
ANSWER: Yes. Canon 6B(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct requires that, "A judge shall file a public report of all gifts which are required to be disclosed under Canon 5D(5)(h)." There is no exemption for gifts disclosed by a non-judge spouse in other public disclosures.
The inquiring judgeís husband is a public administrator who is required to publicly disclose any gifts received over $50.00. He makes his public disclosures quarterly.
There have been instances in which the judge and her husband have received gifts as a couple. The judge asks whether she is required under the Code of Judicial Conduct to again disclose those particular gifts that her husband previously disclosed.
Canon 6 regulates a judgeís fiscal matters. It is entitled:
Fiscal Matters of a Judge Shall be Conducted in a Manner That Does Not Give the Appearance of Influence or Impropriety; a Judge Shall Regularly File Public Reports as Required by Article II, Section 8, of the Constitution of Florida, and Shall Publicly Report Gifts; Additional Financial Information Shall be Filed With the Judicial Qualifications Commission to Ensure Full Financial Disclosure [emphasis added]
The reporting requirements for gifts are found in Canon 6B(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. It provides:
A judge shall file a public report of all gifts which are required to be disclosed under Canon 5D(5)(h) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The report of gifts received in the preceding calendar year shall be filed in the office of the Secretary of State on or before July 1 of each year. A copy shall be filed simultaneously with the Judicial Qualifications Commission.
The Code does not create an exemption or exception for a judge whose non-judge spouse makes a separate public disclosure. Accordingly, the inquiring judge is mandated by Canon 6 to make appropriate financial disclosure of all qualifying gifts she receives with her spouse.
Florida Code of Judicial Conduct: Canons 5D(5)(h); Canon 6; and Canon 6B(2)
The Judicial Ethics Advisory 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 by the Committee. Petition of the Committee on Standards of Conduct Governing Judges, Opinion No. 90,133 (Fla. September 4, 1997). However, in reviewing the recommendations of the Judicial Qualification Commission for discipline, the Florida Supreme Court will consider conduct in accordance with a Committee opinion as evidence of good faith. Id.
For further information, contact The Honorable Scott J. Silverman, Chairman, Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, The Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building, 1351 NW 12th Street #513, Miami, Florida 33125.
Participating Members: Judges Cardonne, Dell, Charles J. Kahn, Lisa D. Kahn, Patterson, Silverman, Smith, Tolten and Attorney Blanton
Copies furnished to:
Justice Charles T. Wells
All Committee Members
All Members of the J.Q.C.
Office of the State Courts Administrator (Name of judge deleted from this copy)