FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

JUDICIAL ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE


Opinion Number 98-18
Date of Issue: November 18, 1998

JUDICIAL CANDIDATE SERVING ON THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF A LOCAL BAR ASSOCIATION

ISSUES

May a candidate for judicial office serve on the Executive Committee of a local bar association?

ANSWER: The Code of Judicial Conduct does not prohibit a judicial candidate from serving on the executive committee of a local bar association.

May a newly elected judge continue to serve on the executive committee of a local bar association?

ANSWER: This is a remote hypothetical question. The committee respectfully declines to render an opinion on this issue.

May political parties endorse judicial candidates?

ANSWER: This is not an ethical issue, but one of law. Accordingly, this committee respectfully declines to render an opinion on this issue.

FACTS

A candidate for judicial office was elected to serve on the executive committee of the local bar association to a two year term. To avoid any improprieties, the candidate inquired if the Code of Judicial Conduct Rules prohibits a judicial candidate from serving on the executive committee of a local bar association.

 

DISCUSSION

Portions of Canon 6 and the entirety of Canon 7 govern the behavior of judicial candidates. The issue of a judicial candidate serving on the executive committee of a local bar association is neither included nor alluded to anywhere in the /code of Judicial Conduct.

In Opinion 79-15 and 79-16, this committee unanimously opined that a sitting judge could not retain or run for president of a bar association. In Opinion 94-44, the committee found that there is not a distinction between holding the office of presidency or any office of the bar association. The committee agreed that holding the presidency or any other office are inappropriate because, "...the judge places himself in a position where he must ask for votes or support from lawyers. The question will inevitably be raised whether the judge is exerting pressures on lawyers who must litigate before him. This gives at least the appearance of impropriety..."

In response to he first question, serving on the Executive Committee of a local bar association is not prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct. As to the second and third inquiries, the committee respectfully declines to respond to them since one is a remote hypothetical question, and the other seeks an opinion on a non-ethical question of law.


REFERENCES

Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions: 79-15; 79-16; 94-44

__________________

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 John W. Dell, Charles J. Kahn, Lisa D. Kahn, Scott J. Silverman, Jere Tolton, C. McFerrin Smith III


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)